Friday, February 01, 2008

Cabinet's Newest Bright Spark and Her "Ten Point Plan"


Parliament had a special Joint Sitting on Wed 30th January to discuss the energy crisis, after 3 weeks of nationwide power blackouts. I have never been so insulted by a parliamentary speech. It was made by Buyelwa Sonjica, the Minister of Minerals and Energy. She clearly has no idea what she is doing, and not only is Eskom causing mayhem and destruction in the economy (the "Energy" part), but the mining industry has already lost millions and essentially halted production for a week so far (the "Minerals" part). In spit of the fact that both Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki were absent, a special joint sitting of parliament is called to discuss this "National Emergency". As the Minister in charge of this fiasco she gets up and addresses the nation as follows:
"Hon members, I want to conclude by introducing these tips – a 10-point plan that will go towards changing our behaviour in the consumption of electricity. What I am going to read out are things we can do when we go out of here:
  • Switch off the geyser between 11h00 and 18h00 and between 21h00 and 05h00.
  • All appliances must be switched off at the wall, and not the remote control. We can save about 40 megawatts there.
  • Switch off all lights in the home when not in use and go to sleep early so that you can grow and be cleverer.
  • Boil only as much water in a kettle as is needed. Don’t fill up the kettle when you need only two cups.
  • Use the microwave oven rather than the stove. Use any other alternative energy source for heating and cooking rather than electricity. We are looking at people using gas, wood and so on.
  • Take a shower and not a shallow bath.
  • Switch off the lights just like Teddy Pendergrass’ “Turn off the lights”, especially in offices and government offices. They are the culprits. It is mandatory for government buildings except for security lights, and we want them to switch off between 22h00 and 06h00.
  • While working in your office, use daylight instead of electric light as far as possible; and
  • Please open the window rather than using the air conditioner.
This is the 10-Point Plan – easy to implement. As long as people do not whinge and whine, this can be achieved. We are calling on all of those positive and progressive South Africans to support us. It can be done and we will do it.
Does this minister have any idea what she is saying? This must be the first 10 point plan in history with only 9 points! I must run the geyser during peak hours only (see red area in graph below) ?! I must go to sleep early to get cleverer, but wake up at 5am to switch on the geyser? I must boil the kettle but cook with wood or gas ?!
Let me see ... If I wake up at 5am and then stay at home until 11am to switch off the geyser, perhaps the rush hour will be over and I won't need to use traffic lights to get to the office. I can then work a full day from noon until 5, and rush home in time to overload the grid by switching on the geyser at 6. I can then light a fire in my flat and have a romantic dinner in the dark and go to bed at 9pm, after switching off the geyser. The mind boggles.
Why didn't she just stand up in parliament and say "Medem the sugar is finished"?
To put this in context, I repeat her speech in full. It doesn't read any better than the extract from Hansard. The Minister of Minerals and Energy opens the session as follows:
Madam Speaker, hon members, chairperson of the NCOP, Deputy Speaker, deputy national chairperson and hon members of the House, Happy New Year.
As I was sitting there having a moment of silence, my daily prayer went, “let there be no outages”.
Madam Speaker, let me start by congratulating the former chairperson of the portfolio committee, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, for his new position as the Chief Whip of the Majority Party in Parliament. [Applause.] We appreciate his leadership and guidance during his tenure as our chairperson. Indeed, I must say that we had an excellent comrade or mother-to-son relationship. I also welcome Mr Nqaba Ncobo as the new chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Minerals and Energy. [Applause.] I am looking forward to working with him.
Hon members, over the past two weeks, we have seen unprecedented levels of electricity supply disruptions in South Africa. The questions on the minds of most people is how long this problem is likely to persist and whether enough is being done to resolve it. In some quarters, the sentiment relates mainly to the need to identify the culprits and to castigate them – crucify, crucify, crucify!
At the onset, I must take the opportunity to apologise to all South Africans for the hardships and inconvenience caused by this unfortunate turn of events. I want to reiterate the apologies by our President and our Deputy President respectively in expressing sincere regret.
We would like to thank all South Africans for the overwhelming response to our calls to save electricity. Let me also acknowledge the leadership that the ANC has provided in helping us deal with this national emergency.
Madam Speaker, Chairperson of the NCOP, the main contributing factors to the challenge facing us today, amongst others, are the following: the unprecedented and unanticipated rate at which we are economically growing as a country; and to a certain extent, the expansion of electricity services to previously unserved areas. This we did in the context of addressing the situation that we find ourselves in, where the majority of our people in this country did not have a very basic service – electricity.
When we took over in 1994, growth had stagnated with over 3000 megawatts excess capacity of plant in mothballed state after they had been decommissioned. Our emphasis as the ANC, in line with our vision, was not only to use the excess supply for growth, but to also turn excess into access for those who needed this basic service.
A legitimate question that always arises is - it arises from all South Africans - why we did not foresee this problem. The major task of the ANC when it took power in 1994 was to revitalise the economy and extend services to the majority of our people. As the Department of Minerals and Energy responsible for the security of supply and energy, we anticipated this current situation. When we experienced an electricity demand growth of about 3,34% and 7,1% in 2002 and 2003 respectively, projections were revised. It was confirmed that new power generation would be required in 2007 and that this should be peaking plant. In an attempt to address this, we did the following: In 2003 in September, my department informed Cabinet that South Africa was running out of excess capacity faster that expected and that additional capacity would be required in 2007. The lead time for such projects is approximately 3 years and therefore a decision was required as soon as possible. Cabinet approval was subsequently acquired for proposals that were geared towards ensuring that South Africa had adequate electricity supply going forward. The key decisions made by Cabinet included the following:
Firstly, Eskom should be instructed to ensure security of supply up to 2007, including the building of new power stations if necessary in the short term. Secondly, 70% of new capacity required beyond 2008 would be commissioned by Eskom. For the remaining 30% of required capacity beyond 2008, a process to bring Independent Power producers - IPPs - into the system would be started in 2005. Lastly, should be instructed to aggressively pursue Demand Side Management strategies with clearly defined targets. What happened with the IPPs? There was no appetite from the private sector to invest in capacity generation.
In April 2004, Cabinet took a decision to procure a new peaking plant as the first IPP in South Africa involving Eskom as the soul buyer of the power. Cabinet had also approved that in line with this obligation to supply, Eskom should be instructed to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement or other appropriate agreements with the IPPs; and that the should be no acceptable bids in the IPP process, Eskom should be asked to build the required capacity.
Hon members, there might have been a delay. Government, on a number of occasions through various leaders in government - in the name of the President himself, the Deputy President, the Minister of Public Enterprises, the Minister of Minerals and Energy - has considered that there was a delay. We have even apologised to South Africans. We are responsible enough. We know that we are accountable to our citizens, and we have done so. There might have been a delay, as I have indicated, but there was definitely an attempt to look into the matter. [Interjections.] I have already alluded to the attempts that we made.
There are other factors, hon members. We are part of the global village. That is a fact. Whatever happens in the world will also affect South Africa. Some of the factors that have affected us include a high demand of energy globally. That is a reality. That is the reason why you see China experiencing the same problem in 13 of its provinces. This is because there is a high demand of energy globally – that is a fact. The growth of the economies of India and China has had an impact – that is a fact. [Interjections.] This is not unique to South Africa. This is happening elsewhere in the world. [Interjections.] We have seen a collapse of energy markets in Ontario. We have seen blackouts in the North Eastern United States and Europe. All of these are because we are part of the global village. Brazil has gone through the same experience. So, we had to look at all of these things in addressing this problem.
We have strengthened the White Paper and the national Integrated Energy Plan at policy level. We have also developed a national energy master plan which Cabinet approved in December last year. Another important policy tool that we put in place last year is the Energy Efficiency Strategy of South Africa that has since enabled the Department of Minerals and Energy to establish the energy efficiency agency that still needs to be beefed up in order to roll out the energy efficiency campaign.
Hon members, we are all aware that we have a national emergency which calls upon Mr Tony Leon here and everyone of us to contribute towards the management of the situation. We are calling for a partnership between the people of South Africa and government. We have had a series of meetings with stakeholders, including the hon the Leader of the Opposition who is very much supportive of this initiative that we have taken as government – a very positive contribution, unlike these hon members on this side. We have since put together a National Electricity Emergency Programme which speaks to the supply and Demand Side Management of the situation.
In our view, the Demand Side Management can be a quick win because it entails using energy efficiently, and this can be done now as we speak. One element of the National Electricity Emergency Programme is power rationing. We have already invoked this protocol, where we have called for a 10% reduction of electricity consumption from all sectors. We are looking at banning the manufacturing and usage of incandescent lights. This will give us about 800 megawatts. Of the 10 million homes that are electrified in South Africa, there are eight incandescent lights per household. So, we need to bring this down. We will be promoting that South Africans who can afford to install solar heaters be encouraged to do so. At least the money from your lectures, Mr Tony Leon, will help. You will be able to buy a solar heater. We are looking at smart metering, fuel switching, traffic lights and public lighting, which we will convert to solar power. All of these are work in progress – we are working on them.
The hospitality industry is called upon to retrofit and be energy efficient. We also call upon them to convert water-heating to solar power. We will embark on the education, public awareness programme, and we will have material in a month’s time. We will also be looking at regulations which were only enforced from Wednesday last week. South Africa’s electricity is known to be the cheapest in the world. We must all brace up for a hike which has been in the pipeline – nothing new is going to be introduced. What is in the pipeline will be introduced as a matter of urgency. [Interjections.] We are confident that we have the ability to turn the situation around. We reassure the South African community and the world at large that all our projects will be on pause, and the 2010 Fifa World Cup is not under threat. [Interjections.]
Hon members, I want to conclude by introducing these tips – a 10-point plan that will go towards changing our behaviour in the consumption of electricity. What I am going to read out are things we can do when we go out of here:
Switch off the geyser between eleven o’ clock and 18h00 and between nine o’ clock in the evening and five o’ clock in the morning. All appliances must be switched off ... [Interjections] ... at the wall, and not the remote control. We can save about 40 megawatts there. Switch off all lights in the home when not in use and go to sleep early so that you can grow ... [Laughter] ... and be cleverer. Boil only as much water in a kettle as is needed. Don’t fill up the kettle when you need only two cups.Use the microwave oven rather than the stove. Use any other alternative energy source for heating and cooking rather than electricity. We are looking at people using gas, wood and so on. [Interjections.]Take a shower and not a shallow bath. Switch off the lights just like Teddy Pendergrass’ “Turn off the lights”, especially in offices and government offices. They are the culprits. It is mandatory for government buildings except for security lights, and we want them to switch off between 22h00 and 06h00. While working in your office, use daylight instead of electric light as far as possible and please open the window rather than using the air conditioner.
This is the 10-Point Plan – easy to implement. As long as people do not whinge and whine, this can be achieved. We are calling on all of those positive and progressive South Africans to support us. It can be done and we will do it. Thank you very much.
If you can make sense of this contradictory bunch of excuses, lies, misinformation and spin, then be my guest.


This video says it all


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