Sustainable Energy, Enviro and Development: briefing


25 August 1999
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

25 August 1999

Documents handed out:
Sustainable Energy, Environment and Development (SEED) Brochure
Sustainable Energy, Environment and Development (SEED) Programme (see Appendix 1 below)
Provisional Portfolio Committee Programme August to September (see Appendix 2 below)
Chapter 5 of the Terms of Reference for the Maloti Conservation Project

The Portfolio Committee was presented the provisional programme for the remainder of the sitting. The programme was not finalised due to suggestions for change. SEED, and NGO, briefed the Portfolio Committee on their activities in preparation for the visit of the Danish Parliamentarians in the following week. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism briefed the Portfolio Committee on the Maloti Conservation Project, as the Portfolio Committee would need to send a recommendation and motion before the National Assembly in terms of the Project being approved. The Portfolio Committee agreed to meet on the issue again on Monday 30 August.

The Chairperson, Ms Gwen Mahlangu (African National Congress) opened the meeting. She noted that as the two groups who were to present briefings were not yet present, the Portfolio Committee would deal with the internal matter of the Portfolio Committee programme for the remainder of the sitting. The Programme had been distributed to the Portfolio Committee members, and she invited comment from the members.

Mr Moorcroft (Democratic Party) requested whether, given the current legislation programme, the Portfolio Committee programme could not be compacted by placing short briefings together on the same day in order reduce the amount of meetings, to allow members to use their time more constructively. As an example, he suggested that item five and six, dealing with the World Heritage Convention Bill, could be placed on the same day.

The Chair stated that the point was well taken. She said the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had indicated that there would be more legislation, however it was not ready for deliberation at this time. Items such as the Asbestos report were very detailed, and would take a lot of time to go through.

Dr Benjamin (African National Congress) noted that the issue of Genetically engineered organisms was being focused on in the media and suggested that the Committee request a briefing on the issue.

Mr Moorcroft noted that Genetically Engineered Organisms had an impact on Agriculture, and there should be some consensus on how the issue is handled.

The Chair indicated that a joint meeting would be requested.

Mr Moss requested whether the Portfolio Committee meeting scheduled for the 7 September could be changed, as he had a bi-election on that day. The Chair replied that due to the suggestion from Mr Moorcroft, the programme might well be altered.

Ms Mbuyazi (Inkhata Freedom Party) asked whether there the Portfolio Committee had any plans for Arbour day. The chair indicated that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was responsible for Arbour day, and she would ensure that an arbour day programme was provided for the Portfolio Committee members.

The Chair noted that the Sustainable Energy, Environment and Development organisation (SEED) had arrived and requested SEED to proceed with the Briefing.

Mr Rene Karottki thanked the Chair for the opportunity. Members of the Danish Parliament were having a meeting with the Portfolio Committee the following week. As sponsors of SEED, the Danes might have questions on the organisations. Therefore SEED saw this meeting as an opportunity to introduce the Portfolio Committee to the work of SEED.

Ms Sarah Ward, the Project Manager for SEED's urban project, stated that the Urban project focused on energy and environmental issues in low-income housing developments. The urban project aimed at enhancing the capacity of urban role players to use safer, affordable, convenient and environmentally sustainable energy options. The urban project was based on three pilot projects in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng. Partnerships were built with local councils and NGO's, with the SEED advisors assisting with technical support and backup. At a National level, the project worked on policy briefs, training, seminars and material development.

Bill Cowan, the Project Manager for the rural programme, noted that rural communities lacked sufficient access to energy. Most people used firewood or dung. Though the rural electrification programme had made progress in terms of service delivery, the benefits from this programme were not necessarily achieved. While service providers, such as Eskom, were making strong efforts, the full benefits were not being gained. There was a gap between what service providers were providing, versus what the rural people wanted. With Danish funding, rural staff training was being carried out in pilot projects to work with Community Based Organisations and Local Government to try and get integration with service providers.

As an example, Mr Cowan stated that while the electrification of rural schools was progressing, many of the schools were not benefiting. While the Eskom support was good, the Department of education could not afford to pay the electricity bills. The aim of the rural programme was to find solutions to the problems of rural energy needs.

Mr Karottki (SEED) stated that there were areas where there was shared rural and urban issues. SEED worked on these overlapping areas to learn and find solutions to the issues. The project had been running for 9 months of an initial 2-year programme.

Dr Rabinowitz (Inkhata Freedom Party) queried whether solar energy was any easier or more difficult, versus electrification, in rural areas. Further, were local people trained in solar equipment maintenance? On the urban side, did the SEED work deal with the illegal connections made to the electricity grids?

Mr Cowan (SEED) stated that both electrification and solar were difficult to sustain. The electrification programme fell short in that many of the schools, for example, did not have any appliances for electricity. Further, in the Eastern Cape the department of Education had requested Eskom not to provide any further connections, as there were no funds to pay electricity bills. Solar systems were technically easier to maintain, but tended to be small systems with large distances between the systems. Therefore it was difficult to have a reliable maintenance system. There was a need to develop local skills to maintain the solar equipment.

Ms Ward (SEED) stated that she was not aware of the level of electricity stealing. The issue was very complex, and dealt with issues such as the quality of housing, and how many people were prepared to pay for services. Research indicated that 20-30 % of income in poor households was spent on energy needs. The providing of electricity does not remove this cost, unless the electricity is stolen. There is a need to make houses and appliances more energy efficient.

An Eskom representative was invited by the Chairperson to comment. Eskom stated that within Eskom a number of teams had been set up to investigate the issue. They had been relatively successful, and the work involved a large degree of education. The issues relating to the theft of electricity were complex, relating to housing budgets, etc.

Dr Rabinowitz (African National Congress) clarified that she did not see the fault lying with the people stealing. Rather with who was accountable for the service provision of electricity, and who would be accountable to the people who were paying for services. Therefore the information really required was who was in control of the provision: local authorities and Eskom often referred to the other.

Dr Benjamin (African National Congress) noted that there was not much emphasis in the literature and briefing on environmental issues, rather on energy issues. She asked what environmental type education was being done by SEED.

Ms Ward (SEED) indicated that the approach had been taken to deal with the pressing issues first, where the issues were affecting the pockets and health of people. The kind of options that SEED was proposing had environmental implications. A thermally efficient house used less energy and resources to keep warm. SEED encouraged a safer and more sustainable mix of energy sources, and tried to approach the issues from a holistic view that encompasses water, energy and greening issues.

Ms Verwoerd (African National Congress) noted that there was potentially great environmental and economic benefits from solar energy. She asked whether the industry was taking off in South Africa, given that grid electricity was a major income generator for local Governments, and there was no strong incentive for Eskom to encourage a shift to solar energy. Secondly, Ms Verwoerd asked what happened after SEED had provided facilitation and education services. The gender implications of electrification are supposed to be great, as it is women that cook and collect firewood. But if a TV was installed, rather than an electric stove, will women really be affected.

Mr Moorcroft (Democratic Party) noted that solar energy need not be high tech. A drum with black piping could be used to hear water. To what extent was SEED looking at the low tech options?

Mr Cowan (SEED) replied that there was a divided approach from Eskom. Some parts of Eskom showed a lot of interest in the solar potential, and in the low tech solar potential. But other parts of Eskom were concerned in terms of the economic impact, as solar options were often seasonal. On the really cold days, there would be peaks of electricity demand, and managing a utility with erratic demand with peaks was problematic. He added that Eskom was not necessarily against solar options. In terms of the rural areas, the heating of water was not shown to be a major priority, and there was not really a demand for solar water heating. The industry for solar industry was in collapse. As prices rose, demand decreases and sales drop.

Ms Ward (SEED) commented that the issue of a low demand for solar was partly an information issue. IN one of the areas of their urban project, an extensive information campaign on solar energy had generated demand for solar heating.

Ms Chalmers (African National Congress) noted that in her rural constituency, many of the people did not take to the idea of solar heaters, as they were strange. In terms of solar panels, she noted that components are all imported. She asked whether there were South African companies doing research.

Mr Cowan (SEED) answered that in terms of the solar cookers, cooking was a major energy need. In addition it was an activity that people cared about, and had a particular way of cooking. The solar cookers force a way of cooking that was not familiar to people. People were not keen to change. If solar cookers could be integrated to use other energy sources, there may well be a demand for them. The semi conductors for solar panels were imported. The rest of the panel was made locally and the assembly of the solar system was carried out in South Africa. The large amount of finances required in terms of research and development for a South African industry argued against it. The cost of the imported part was around 30% of the total item, and the prices were being reduced all the time.

Mr Moss (African National Congress) queried the sustainability side of the SEED programme. He asked what practical physical work was being done to promote sustainability.

Mr Cowan (SEED) stated that the delivery had to be by the service providers. SEED aims to help service providers to deliver more efficiently, and does not do the provision.

Ms Mbuyazi (Inkhata Freedom Party) wanted to thank SEED for their presentation, and asked, with the large amount of rural areas in South Africa, how much further training was to be done.

Mr Cowan replied that the issue was of concern. The SEED project focused on one piece of a complex puzzle. Rather than spread over many areas, SEED had decided to concentrate in a couple of districts that were close to each other. If the projects were successful, then the experience could be spread on a wider basis.

The Chairperson thanked SEED for the briefing. She introduced Mr Greg Stewart from the Maloti Cross Border Biodiversity conservation Project, and asked him to brief the Portfolio Committee.

Mr Stewart, the project co-ordinator, stated that the objectives of the project were to conserve globally significant biodiversity, and to contribute to the development of the local communities, primarily through nature based tourism. The area of the proposed conservation region include areas in Lesotho, and in Kwazulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and surrounding areas. The area had a very old land surface, which resulted in many endemic species, and made it an area of important biological diversity.

The project was started 15 years ago, initially through initiatives from Kwazulu-natal. More recently, the World Bank had provided $400 000 to Lesotho, and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) had provided South Africa with $348 000 to come up with a proposal for a cross border conservation area.

The approval process for the funding to be made available was complex. Once the funds were available, numerous initial studies would be made by short term consultants. Some of the issues to be looked at included information management, biodiversity assessments, threat assessment, infrastructure requirements, the potential for tourism, social impact assessments, and legal and institutional issues.

The Chairperson noted that there would be a motion in the National Assembly in the near future which parliament would have to move on. She suggested that the Portfolio Committee members ask questions of clarity, and then take some time in the next week to look at the literature and study the proposal. A further meeting would then take place for in depth questions.

Ms Verwoerd (African National Congress) asked who is the Project. Who were the role players and stakeholders?

Mr Stewart stated that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Lesotho government were the essential project leaders, with the Kwazulu-Natal Nature Conservation as the main implementing agents. A memorandum of understanding had been drawn up with Lesotho, and there were to project co-ordinators, one from each country.

Ms Chalmers queried whether there was more information on the web site. Mr Stewart replied that the web site had no additional information to what had been provided at the meeting.

Mr Frolick (United Democratic Movement) noted that the area seemed to be a low-density rural area. To what extend had the local communities been involved in the project.

Mr Stewart replied that the team had done their best to inform tribal councils, local councils, etc, on the project. The project was building on many years of work done by NGO's in the areas. All the consultants had been given clear instructions to work together with the local communities.

Dr Rabinowitz asked why there had been hold ups with the approval process in terms of making the funding for the initial stage available. Mr Stewart replied that there was a multiplicity of factors. Much of the consultation with the Provinces and staff in Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism did not go ahead in the months preceding the elections. The team failed to make sufficient consultation with the other Provinces.

The Chair asked Mr Mashamba from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism whether a motion would be before the house this session. Mr Mashamba answered yes.

Mr Moorcroft (Democratic Party) asked whether the money could be withdrawn if the proposal did not get in on time.

Mr Stewart stated that the aim was to get the proposal and the project on the GEF work plan for 2000. There was no guarantee that if the proposal did not make the time limit, it would be considered at a later stage.

The Chair stated that there would be follow-ups with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The department was meeting with the Portfolio Committee on the following Monday, and the issue would be taken further.

The meeting closed.

Appendix 1:

Shared strategy elements

Local level

of sustainable energy and environment issues into existing urban housing and rural development programmes.

Strengthening local level actors
by co-operating closely with local authorities and non-governmental service providers, including establishing positions as advisors

Conducting local level activities
such as sustainable energy action plans, information campaigns, demonstration and training, in close co-operation with the local partners

National level

Bringing the local agenda to the national level, and addressing the national agenda via:

policy briefs
media coverage
joint web-site and newsletter

networking and co-operating with other national actors

Regional and global level
Communication and developing specific co-operation with other actors in the region

Global communication and exchange of experience

Possible continuation after Phase 1

Continue local level activities with partner organisations

Assess the feasibility of a permanent organisational framework, e.g. as a Section 21 company (non-profit ngo)

Assess the feasibility of and the options for financing of Phase 2

Appendix 2:


1. Tuesday, 24 August 1999(09:30)
Discussions with Swedish Parliamentarians

2. Wednesday, 25 August 1999(09:30)
Briefing by EDRC on SEED programme
Briefing by Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Project Team
Discussion of PC programme

3. Monday, 30 August 1999 (14:00-17:00)
Briefing by DEAT on international conventions pertaining to:
Climate Change

4. Tuesday, 31 August 1999 (08:30)
Discussions with Danish Parliamentarians

5.Wednesday, 1 September 1999(09:30)
Briefing on World Heritage Convention Bill

6.Tuesday, 7 September 1999(09:30)
Discussions on World Heritage Convention Bill

Wednesday, 8 Sept. 1999(09:30)
Progress Report - Asbestos

Tuesday, 14 September 1999 (09:30)
Briefing by DEAT - Transformation Programme

9. Tuesday, 21 September 1999(09:30)
Briefing by Sea Fisheries - Implementation of new Marine Living Resources Act

* Note that this programme is still provisional. Any issues that members feel warrant the PC committee's attention may be forwarded to the Clerk of the Committee (Mr M Xaso)

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