Electrification and non-grid electrification: briefing

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Mineral Resources and Energy

06 March 2002
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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.

MINERALS AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
6 March 2002
ELECTRIFICATION AND NON-GRID ELECTRIFICATION: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr R. Mofokeng

Documents handed out:
The National Electrification Programme: 2001 and into the Future

SUMMARY
The Department briefed the Committee on the National Electrification Programme. The Department conceded that the lack of capacity of municipalities had been an issue to grapple with but that it was being addressed.

MINUTES
The National Electrification Programme
Mr D. Mahuma, Director of Electrification presented the Committee with a comprehensive overview of the National Electrification Programme. He emphasized the importance of local government in the process, as both the Eskom Act of 1987 and the Constitution tasks it with distributing electricity. Mr Mahuma conceded that the lack of capacity of certain municipalities in distributing electricity was an issue that the Department had to grapple with. He felt that the Department had adequately addressed the problem with the formation of the proposed Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs).

Discussion
Ms M. Ramakaba-Lesiea (ANC) asked who made the decision on whether a community was to receive grid or non-grid electrification.

Mr Mahuma stated that the decision was taken at Department level.

Ms M. Ramakaba-Lesiea (ANC) asked how did the Department decide on the ability of local government to deliver electricity given their current lack of capacity.

Mr Mahuma stated that electricity delivery was one of local government's Integrated Development Plan (IDP) responsibilities. He added that the REDs would be tasked with the function of acting as service providers to municipalities.

Mr I. Davidson (DP) asked that if the annual cost of electrification was R1.2 bn and Eskom only contributed R300m was the Department responsible for coming up with the rest of the funds.

Mr Mahuma confirmed that the Department would be responsible for coming up with the rest of the funds.

Mr M. Ramodike (UDM) asked what the Department, local government and Eskom were doing to help capacitate municipalities.

Mr Ramodike asked what the community liaison function of the Department would entail.

Mr Mahuma pointed out that communication needed to take place at various spheres of government. He added that communities would be afforded platforms to raise concerns even at levels lower than local government.

Mr Ramodike asked if the reading of metres and the sending out of customer accounts did not delay the delivery of electricity in rural areas.

Mr Mahuma stated that the reading of metres was one of the licensing conditions that the National Electricity Regulator (NER) had imposed on Eskom. It had to be fulfilled.

Mr Ramodike asked who owned the infrastructural set up behind the delivery of electricity services in rural areas.

Mr Mahuma was unsure about specifics on the actual contractual arrangements but nevertheless promised to provide it to the committee in the near future.

Mr J. Nash (ANC) asked who had decided on the rates that were to be charged to communities for the delivery of electricity in rural areas.

Mr Mahuma said that the charges for non-grid electricity were high because it included operational and capital costs. Non-grid electrification did not form part of the National Electrification Programme (NEP) but the Department did foresee its capital costs to be absorbed by the NEP in the future.

Mr Nash asked which departments were to be included in the work on electrification.

Mr Mahuma reacted that the Departments of Finance, Education, Health and Local Government would be involved.

Mr Nash asked if the Department was keeping track of the non-grid electrification that was taking place at schools. He was concerned that many of the non-grid systems at schools were not functioning.

Mr Mahuma noted that the Department of Education was responsible for the upgrade and maintenance of the non-grid systems at schools.

Prof I. Mohamed (ANC) asked if it was correct that the Department felt the electrification process not to be commercially viable. He asked if the situation was going to worsen and whether the Department had considered the results of research that consumption levels were far too low.

Mr Mahuma stated that the Department was aware of the research figures and had taken it into consideration.

The Chair stated that he had expected senior Department officials to conduct the briefing, as many of the issues were complex. He nevertheless understood the fact that senior officials were unable to attend due to more pressing issues having cropped up.

The meeting was adjourned.


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