Mon, 30 Mar 2020

Unions have given mixed responses to interventions detailed by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of Nation address to address Eskom's power generation challenges.

Eskom's operational challenges have led to frequent load shedding, which threatens economic growth as the state-owned power generator battles to maintain a steady supply of electricity.

Trade unions have been critical of some of the plans aimed at addressing financial and operational challenges at Eskom, including the introduction of electricity produced by independent power producers to the national grid.

In December, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy announced a raft measures aimed at alleviating pressure on Eskom, including accelerating the completion of bid window 4 projects, as well as a initiating a drive for the use of more liquefied petroleum gas.

In his address on Thursday, Ramaphosa announced the opening of bid window 5. Cosatu, who have been the biggest critics of independent power producers, said they were disappointed about the anticipated opening of window 5, given their stance on the programme, which they blame for contributing to the draining of Eskom finances.

"Our position on the IPPs has not changed...the system is unaffordable, and we still believe that there should be more debate on the matter, now government is pressing ahead with window 5," said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

"The IPPs are not aiding the situation. We still need more transparency on the programme, in terms of who the companies are benefiting from these contracts and how are they contributing to economic inclusion."

"So far we are happy with how the plan has been received by government ...consultations are still underway. We reject the thinking that some people have not been consulted, we are still in the consultation process with various stakeholders," he said.

They added that the matter will now be tabled at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

The Federation of Unions of South Africa hailed Ramaphosa's commitment to process applications by independent power producers to generate their own uncapped electricity requirements within the statutory 120 days and allowing municipalities to source electricity from independent power producers.

Unlike its counterparts at Cosatu, the federation said procurement from IPPs "will relieve tremendous pressure from the national grid" but cautioned that these need to be "accompanied by a good plan to compensate Eskom for the substantial revenue incomes that will be lost as a result of these new developments."

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa plans to give a detailed response on Eskom interventions at a later stage.

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