Red tape and political wrangling stymie SA’s solar power projects

China plans solar power plant in space and Mars mission
China plans to build the first solar power plant in space and embark on a mission to Mars.China intends to build a solar power station that would orbit earth at a distance of 36,000 kilometers, according to Science and Technology Daily.
Applications to generate more than 1000MW of small-scale solar power are sitting on the desks of the authorities but red tape and “political wrangling” are holding up the process of getting this new electricity onto the grid.
This is equivalent to just over half the electricity capacity of Koeberg Nuclear power station.
Experts say this clean energy would not only bring some financial relief to sectors such as agriculture, which cannot pass on the 380% electricity tariff increase over the last 10 years to the consumer, but would also be a buffer against Eskom’s rolling black-outs that cost the economy billions.
Now some businesses and farmers are threatening legal action against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) in an attempt to get the go-ahead to generate power.
Davin Chown, chair of the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvia), said at the heart of the matter was a lack of agreement between Nersa and the Department of Energy on the process for authorising small-scale embedded electricity generation (SSEG).
‘Political Wrangling’
“It’s hampering all applications. I know there are more than 1000MW of projects sitting on Nersa’s desk. There is nothing stopping you registering your project with Nersa, although it takes a long time and is expensive, but the real issue is when you get all that done, you still need a ministerial determination. The minister has got to say: ‘Yes, this can go ahead’. Then you need a generating licence, and not all the authorities have agreed on this licensing process, so you can’t get through all the hoops. That is the big hold-up,” Chown said.
Chown said “political wrangling” between the authorities was a significant impediment. Energy Minister Jeff Radebe needed to step in.
“The Minister needs to sign-off these projects and just get it done. Had this been done properly, that extra power would have made Eskom’s life a lot easier by giving them a safety margin. So the net effect would be that a Stage 4 load-shedding could have been a Stage 3 instead.”
Chown said the entire authorisation process of small-scale embedded generation was far too onerous and expensive, which was fine for big renewable energy projects, but not for those that were small.
Farmers and solar power
Organised agriculture, Agri-SA, says there are 500 applications from farmers wanting to generate solar power, which has the potential to contribute 1400MW to Eskom’s electricity grid.
However, because of “the bottleneck with Nersa” and “Eskom’s slow processing and administration of applications, as well as the slow implementation of the electricity regulations”, Agri-SA says just 13 solar power projects of the 500 are up and running.
Nicol Jansen, the organisation’s chair of economics and trade, said it took three and a half years to get one application through the system.
“If we take all the applications for plants that we know of, that could generate 1400MW of power which could prevent Stage 1 of Eskom’s load-shedding. It would also help Eskom because it is running those open gas cycle turbines 24/7 to stop load shedding and the cost of that diesel is enormous. It would also help farmers who have seen electricity go up from 25c a unit in 2008 to just over R1 in 2019 – that is a 380% increase,” Jansen said.
Eskom ‘cant register the credits’
Once a small solar project got the go-ahead, it took just a few months to build and start generating power back into the grid. Jansen said another problem was that the few farmers who had managed to get solar projects authorised, had been unable to reap the financial benefit of selling power to Eskom, as Eskom had no billing system in place to register the credits.
“It costs about R20m to put up one of these solar plants, and farmers are really frustrated because they have to pay the costs to the banks. Some are suing their service providers – but it’s not their fault – and some have taken legal action against Nersa. None has gone to court yet, and the lawyers are backwards and forwards with one step at a time. The whole thing is totally unacceptable,” Jansen said.
Asked to comment, Nersa spokesperson Charles Hlebela said Nersa had a registration process in place for SSEGs. Out of the 18 applications it had received for up to 1MW of power, 17 had passed the adequacy test, and were now going through Nersa’s internal approval process.
‘Nersa has moved the goal posts’
Dr Requier Wait, the head of Agri-SA’s economics and trade section, said while it was true that Nersa had a registration process, the last time Nersa had issued registration letters to small-scale embedded generators was on March 1 in 2018.
“No registrations have been processed for the past 13 months, and as they indicate, the 17 applications are not yet finalised,” Wait said. Now it appears Nersa has moved the goal-posts. Wait said after the electricity sub-committee had approved the 17 projects on April 4 this year, Nersa should have issued registration letters.
Instead the sub-committee changed its mind about its own process and recommended that the 17 projects go before the energy regulator’s next meeting for “final approval”.
But, said Wait, the regulations were quite clear that the service provider – Eskom or the municipality – is the body to approve the application, and Nersa should simply register it.
Gordhan steps in
“Nersa might have a process, but at the first opportunity to follow this process they have already deviated from it,” Wait said. Last week, after five years of battling with the issue, Agri-SA secured a meeting with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan last week.
Jansen said Gordhan had been “sympathetic” and said he would look into the matter.
“But it is the election in a few weeks and who knows if he will still be minister in the new government? And if there is someone new, we go back to square one. And all this time there is load-shedding because Eskom does not have enough electricity.”
Eskom confirmed that Nersa was responsible for registration and licensing for small and large generators, whether they applied to connect to the Eskom or municipal grid.
“In all cases the final connection to the national grid is dependent on Nersa either registering or licensing the connection,” Eskom said.

Cape Town airport expansion ready for take-off

Tenders are due to go out soon for the R7bn (€441m) expansion of Cape Town International Airport, with construction scheduled to start in February next year and completion due in 2025, according to GM, Deon Cloete.
The work will include the realignment of the runway (due for completion in 2022), the simultaneous construction of a new domestic arrivals terminal and the redevelopment of the international departures terminal by 2025. Cloete said passenger process through the airport would be redirected during the construction, but CTIA would do its best to minimise impact on passengers.
He was speaking to TU on Thursday during a site visit of the planned upgrades by Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC, Beverley Schäfer, and City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos. This follows CTIA clinching the Skytrax Best Airport in Africa Award last week for the fourth year running and being ranked 22nd in the world.
Commenting to TU, Schäfer said: “It’s probably going to be a few years of headaches for passengers and we ask that they remain patient, but once the upgrade is in place, it will be of huge benefit to the economy, job creation and the tourism industry. A bigger airport will mean we can land bigger planes and process far more passengers, which will contribute to growing the tourism industry. Increased connectivity allows us to drive business, trade and foreign direct investment.”
Following a slow-down of 9% in tourism growth in 2018, she said the province was hoping for increased tourism growth now that the water crisis was over. “We certainly want to make sure that any blockages, which include visa regulations or queues at the airport, are mitigated to the maximum. I will be writing to the Tourism Minister because we want the visa regulations to be scrapped.”
Schäfer said the expansion plans would go a long way toward extending the success of the Cape Town Air Access project, which, since 2015, resulted in 13 new routes and 18 route expansions. International seat capacity has doubled by 1.5m seats, resulting in 20% growth or 2.4m more international passengers in 2017.

South Africa’s first ever e-visas are now available in New Zealand – visitors can now print visas at home

• The department of tourism said the first e-visas to South Africa will be issued in New Zealand in April.
• The new visas will allow prospective visitors to apply for a visa online, and print visas at home.
• The Western Cape investment agency said they have already seen New Zealand bookings increase by 7%, and is expecting that number to rise.

South Africa’s first ever e-visas will be issued in New Zealand in April, the tourism department’s communications director, Blessing Manale, said.
The new visas, first announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Union (SONA) address in February, will allow prospective visitors to apply for a visa online.
Once granted, the e-visa can be printed at home. Currently, tourists have to visit a South African embassy to be granted a visa.
Manale said the new e-visas will be piloted in New Zealand before a global rollout.
The new e-visas, alongside relaxed visa rules for minors in December, will hopefully help to grow South Africa’s international tourism industry, Manale told Business Insider South Africa.
The South African government aims to have 21 million tourists visiting the country by 2030, up from 10 million in 2018.
“South Africa is also finalizing the development of a new biometric movement control system which will be piloted at Cape Town and Lanseria International Airports [to improve passenger processing],” Manale said.
Other improvements include the introduction of long multiple entry visas for frequent and trusted travellers to South Africa, and simplified visa requirements specifically for China and India.
Cornelis van der Waal, Head of Research at the Western Cape’s investment agency Wesgro, said New Zealand bookings to Cape Town already increased by 7% from April 2018 to April 2019, up from 409 to 437.
He said the new visa rules will result in an additional increase of tourism numbers “over time.”
“Visa relaxation measures will take some time to make an impact. People don’t choose a destination for next week,” Van der Waal told Business Insider South Africa.
“Certainly not one with historical stringent regulations in place [such as South Africa].”

Migrant children in SA can’t be denied schooling

JOHANNESBURG – Migrant children living in South Africa without proper documentation can’t be denied access to schooling.
A ruling made by the Grahamstown High Court last year had threatened to halt the education of children whose parents are in the country illegally.
The Basic Education now says those learners must be helped to obtain the necessary paperwork.
They will be allowed to continue schooling as a Ministerial Task team appointed by Cabinet finalises a report into the matter.
In December, the Grahamstown High Court handed down a judgment that found that the right to basic education, could not be extended to children in the country illegally.
That ruling has was then overturned after the Constitutional Court granted applicants leave to appeal.

Thousands of Congolese ousted from Angola in days: official

In October 2018, Angola said about 380,000 illegal migrants — mainly from neighbouring DR Congo — had left the country in less than a month.
KIKWIT – Thousands more people from the Democratic Republic of Congo have been ousted from Angola in recent days, a local official said, joining more than 300,000 ejected under an expulsion order that has prompted UN concern.
In the last three days, more than 3,000 people arrived in Kahemba in the DR Congo’s western Kwango province, Kahemba administrator Severin Mubanga told AFP.
The group included pregnant women, children and infirm people, with very limited resources.
The Kahemba region is about 110 kilometres from the border with Angola.
In October 2018, Angola said about 380,000 illegal migrants, mainly from neighbouring DR Congo, had left the country in less than a month under a government operation against diamond trafficking.
An “indignant” Kinshasa, for its part, said at the time that the group included some 200,000 of its citizens, about 30,000 of whom were ousted “brutally” with methods that resulted in “loss of human life.”
When he visited Luanda in February, Congolese president Felix Tshisekedi urged the Angolan authorities to let his government know of any decision to expel its nationals.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in October expressed concern about a “fast-developing humanitarian situation” sparked by the mass returns of people from Angola in just a matter of weeks.
Most had been working in the informal mining sector.
“The Congolese are returning to a desperate situation, looking for safety and aid,” said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch, and warned many would likely “face difficulties due to destruction caused by recent conflict in the area” of Kasai, also on the Angolan border.

Cape Town airport expansion ready for take-off

Tenders are due to go out soon for the R7bn (€441m) expansion of Cape Town International Airport, with construction scheduled to start in February next year and completion due in 2025, according to GM, Deon Cloete.
The work will include the realignment of the runway (due for completion in 2022), the simultaneous construction of a new domestic arrivals terminal and the redevelopment of the international departures terminal by 2025. Cloete said passenger process through the airport would be redirected during the construction, but CTIA would do its best to minimise impact on passengers.
He was speaking to TU on Thursday during a site visit of the planned upgrades by Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC, Beverley Schäfer, and City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos. This follows CTIA clinching the Skytrax Best Airport in Africa Award last week for the fourth year running and being ranked 22nd in the world.
Commenting to TU, Schäfer said: “It’s probably going to be a few years of headaches for passengers and we ask that they remain patient, but once the upgrade is in place, it will be of huge benefit to the economy, job creation and the tourism industry. A bigger airport will mean we can land bigger planes and process far more passengers, which will contribute to growing the tourism industry. Increased connectivity allows us to drive business, trade and foreign direct investment.”
Following a slow-down of 9% in tourism growth in 2018, she said the province was hoping for increased tourism growth now that the water crisis was over. “We certainly want to make sure that any blockages, which include visa regulations or queues at the airport, are mitigated to the maximum. I will be writing to the Tourism Minister because we want the visa regulations to be scrapped.”
Schäfer said the expansion plans would go a long way toward extending the success of the Cape Town Air Access project, which, since 2015, resulted in 13 new routes and 18 route expansions. International seat capacity has doubled by 1.5m seats, resulting in 20% growth or 2.4m more international passengers in 2017.

Home Affairs queues get ugly

Aside from the usual inconvenience of a repeatedly crashing or offline system the continuing woes and long queues at Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office were aggravated by last week’s load shedding.
This was because the back-up generator — which broke down in January — had not been fixed.
However, manager Xolani Maphumulo said a team of technicians arrived on Friday to repair it and it was up and running by that afternoon.
Maphumulo attributed the delay in fixing the generator to the workload of the service provider, stating that only one service provider was available to all Home Affairs branches across the country.
“The technicians were only able to attend to our offices today [Monday], they have been busy throughout the country,” he said on Friday.
He said normally due to the limited uninterrupted power supply the office receives from Msunduzi Municipality during load shedding — which helps power the computers — they tried to work through the planned outages.
But with the generator also out of order the system was extra slow.
Maphumulo said now that the technical problems with the generator have been fixed he did not foresee further disruptions to services this week.
One frustrated resident who had stood in queues repeatedly from 7 am last Wednesday, said she managed to get her application done on Friday.
She said on Wednesday, while the doors were opened at 8 am, only people requiring marriage and birth certificates were allowed in.
“This went on for most of the morning and they kept saying that their systems were offline. The security guard said the biometrics system had crashed, and that IT was working on it. I stood there the whole of Wednesday and nothing happened,” she said.
She said when she went back again on Thursday nothing happened because of load shedding.
The resident went back again on Friday and eventually managed to get in and process her passport application.
“While I was standing in the queue it got so ugly and people were very angry. The guards didn’t have control over the crowd.”
She said at that stage, whoever pushed the hardest managed to get in through the door.
While she was inside, the resident said she and other patrons were locked inside because the crowd outside was banging on the glass doors demanding to be let in.
“It was the most traumatic experience of my life and I never want to go through that again,” she said.
More than 100 people, including the elderly, pupils and women carrying newborns, complained on Friday that they had been waiting since 3 am that day to be helped.
The outraged residents from Pietermaritzburg and the outskirts, who were desperately trying to get official documents had hoped that after spending over 10 hours in the queue they would be seen to, but by 2 pm they had not been helped.
Several said they were tired of leaving their homes before dawn to wait outside the Home Affairs office, only to be turned away in the afternoon without having been served and forced to return day after day.
Some complained that the employees at the office should extend their working hours to compensate for the backlog created by load shedding.
A woman from Mountain Rise, who asked to remain unnamed, said she was applying for a Smart ID card for her son who is in matric.
“I got here at 5.30 am. Besides the load shedding, they are slow and inefficient.
“The queue is always long and its just pointless to wait but where else can we go? It’s the same everywhere,” she said.
She said it was frustrating to stand in the queue the whole day only to be turned away.
“If my son doesn’t have his ID, he will not be able to write his final exams. Nobody has even come out to inform us that they had load shedding,” she said.
Another parent, who also asked not to be named, suggested that Home Affairs should revive its mobile service units for schools.
“We can’t keep taking leave from work for nothing. The last time I was here I got as far as the door only to have the security guard close the door in my face.”
Gillian David said she had been standing in the queue from 5 am on Friday. “I left here at 12 pm when they had load shedding and went to New Hanover. There I was told that their systems have been offline from Tuesday.”
David said she also required a Smart ID card and passport for her son.
“This is a government department servicing many people daily. They should have a functional generator and back-up for load shedding. It’s really not fair.”
Ntombenhle Buthelezi (54), from Swapo informal settlement near Copesville, said although the power was restored around 12 pm, the queue was still moving at a snail’s pace. “You are lucky if you get in.
“Every two hours, only 10 people move, at times you are lucky if the 10 even move.”

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