SENSE 59: March 2010

Number 59: March 2010


Welcome! SENSE is a service of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Project (SECCP) of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA Jhb).

SENSE is a regular publication, edited by Tristen Taylor. We welcome any feedback and submissions. Also, let us know if you wish to get more information from ELA Jhb, or know someone else who should be receiving SENSE. Please note that the material in SENSE does not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of Earthlife Africa Jhb and/or the SECCP.

Tel:             +27 11 339-3662



1. Editorial
2. SECCP News: Free Basic Electricity for All, Nersa & Tariff Mayhem
3. SA Sustainable Energy News: Renewable Potential, The Potential of Renewables, SWH for FS, Chinese and Indian Solar, The Joule Hits Motoring Catwalk
4. SA Unsustainable Energy: Aluminium Deals Stink, Eskom is Sweet for Big Al, Nersa’s Terrible Tariff Ruling, Nersa’s Not-so-bad Tariff Ruling, Nersa 1 Climate 0, PetroSA Desperate for Gas, PetroSA’s 9bn Refinery, India Wants SA Coal, Newsflash–Nukes are Expensive, Gaseous Regulations, Paying the Piper
5. Energy Policy & Analysis: Cheap Wind to Provide 70% of SA’s Needs, IEA Debunks Carbon Reduction Promises, Uranium’s Coup d’Etat in Niger
6. African Energy News: Inga 3 Dies, Africa Behind on Green Energy, Botswana’s Energy Resources, Botswana’s Energy Scramble, Botswana Trips Up in Energy Scramble, BP Says Goodbye to Tanzania, Nigeria’s Power Woes


1. Editorial

The big news has nothing to do with Nersa’s tariff ruling or even the potential of renewables, but with the death of the ambitious Inga 3 development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Western Power Corridor (Westcor) venture is to be dissolved and with it the hopes of the DRC exporting power to neighbouring countries and South Africa. So much for that. But, don’t worry, BHP Billiton may be building a new aluminium smelter in the DRC and using the cheap power that would have come to South Africa to… BHP Billiton’s South African smelters with cheap power.

South Africa’s mainstream media has finally cottoned on to the issue of Eskom’s special pricing arrangements with large industrial concerns. About frickin’ time. Figures like 9c/kWh are being thrown around and Sake24 is taking Eskom to court to force disclosure of BHP Billiton’s sweetheart deals. No, the term “sweetheart deal” is wrong; Eskom’s relationship with BHP Billiton is more like that of a lonely sap who showers a beautiful girl with gifts, writes heartfelt poems, serandes below windows, only to be ritually abused and publically humilitated in return. That’s it, Eskom is in an abusive relationship. The solution…divorce followed by intensive trama counselling.

In some ways you have to feel for Eskom. No, hear me out, I know your bleeding from those nasty tariff increases and would like to fire up the chainsaw and take it over to the Eskom Convention Centre, but take a minute to consider the position Eskom finds itself in these days. Imagine that you are sitting in that leather-lined CEO chair at Megawatt Park having a simple lunch of Beluga Caviar and Dom Perigon: You’ve just lost 2000MW of power from Inga, the bill from the CAPEX programme keeps on growing, Chancellor House is screaming for its cut, CIC’s Botswana power hopes keep on floundering, your future employeers at BHP Billiton and Anglo are demanding more and more power at bargain-basement rates, funding is so tight that even the loansharks at the World Bank look good, the climate is deteroriating and the promises of emissions cuts under the Copenhagen Accord will keep us to an Earth-frying three degrees and you’re getting blamed for it all because you’re building a coal-fired powerstation or two or three, just about every person in the Republic thinks you are incompetant, you’ve been told all sorts of great things about nuclear power and how radiation is good for the soul but just can’t understand why such a modern miracle is so expensive, and you’re losing money hand over fist. Your balance book looks like someone took a shotgun to it, you think it was the guy who’s now suing you, Jacob somebody or other. The only people who understand you, who really get your needs, who bend over backwards to listen to you, are the Regulators at NERSA, and even they have let you down. Instead of rolling over like they are supposed to, your 45% was turned into 25%. Traitorous curs.

So what do you do? Two options jump out at you. You’re not paid millions for nothing. Option A: Bet it all on black, double up those bets. You can build Kusile and keep Chancellor House happy, you can get someone else to build coal 3 and pass on the cost to domestic consumers, you can buy the climate lobby off with a wind farm, the promise of small solar thermal project and the occasional solar water heater. Minster Peters will be happy with 20,000MW of nuclear plants and so will the French, so win-win there. And, anyway, you can always go back to Nersa. A couple of strong words, a stiff arm to show them who the boss is and a few threats about load-shedding, and they’ll come back with that missing 20% right quick. Worked in the past, didn’t it?

Acid indigestion strikes as you consider Option B. You could throw out the current plan, take on the multinationals and get them to pay a proper tariff, tell the state it is time for some serious equity, and use the money to build vast wind farms across the Cape. Green jobs. Become the world leader in solar thermal technology, shove a solar water heater down every household in the country, distribute the grid to reduce transmission losses, tell the French to take their free baguettes and find some other sucker. Eradicate the scourge of household pollution from coal & paraffin with the provision of a decent free basic electricity allocation for all. The people will love you and the planet will thank you. History will praise your vision. Who knows, there may be a statue in it all.

Then, you smile as you ring the bell for the manservant to bring the coffee and cigars. There’s an Option C. The proverbial door number three. Keep your head down, don’t worry about tomorrow, make sure the lights stay on during the World Cup, and, at the end of the year, give yourself a rather large bonus. Early retirement in the Maldives beckons.

Option C, Option C, Option C, the soothing mantra that lifts the weight of history, removes the shackles of politics, and clears the acid indigestion.

Tristen Taylor
Project Coordinator
Earthlife Africa Jhb
24th of March 2010

Download the rest: Sense 59 March 2010

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