Earthlife and CALS comments on Draft Energy Bill

Written by  Saturday, 02 August 2008 00:43
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In 1998, the White Paper on Energy outlined a comprehensive energy policy for South Africa. Since then, several laws have been passed and implemented; however, many gaps remain. The Draft National Energy Bill seeks to fill those gaps, as well as to respond to some of the regulatory issues responsible for precipitating recent energy crisis.

Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA Jhb) raise concern that the bill does not adequately focus on the needs of South Africa’s poor.

The Bill does empower the Minister to implement programmes that may realize some progress the areas of affordable access, continued electrification, and the safety of electricity substitutes such as coal and paraffin.

However, the Bill should recognize that these programmes are not mere political policy, but reflect entrenched constitutional rights to adequate housing and environmental protection.

Furthermore, the Bill should recognize shortcomings with regard to the inclusion of externalized costs of alternative sources, such as fuel wood, coal, and paraffin; current policy ignores such costs as the increased air pollution in households and the increased risk of fires and burns.

Since the Bill deals with targeting renewable energy, it should set explicit targets for the percentage of South Africa’s energy obtained by renewable sources. The bill should also address the NEMIA’s ability to include environmental, health, and safety analysis for the minister to consider for the Energy Masterplan.

CALS and ELA Jhb specifically suggest that:

• The NEMIA should be given a mandate to account for externalized costs of energy generation and distribution, such as paraffin fires and pollution from coal.

• The Bill should refocus its attention on the provision to and affordability of electricity to the poor.

• The Bill should acknowledge that there is a constitutional right to access affordable electricity services.

• This right is implicitly acknowledged by the government’s inclusion of electricity in its free basic package, but that it should be explicitly acknowledged in the Billl.

• This right should be acknowledged in the Bill in order to keep South African law in line with international law, including the ICESR and the CEDAW.

• The Bill acknowledges that there is a constitutional right to have the environment protected, and to live in an environment that is not harmful to one’s health.

• By acknowledging such a right, the bill should secure and guarantee poor households the constitutional right to a healthy, protected environment.

• The NEMIA should be given the legal power to obtain the information necessary to its functions, including from industries benefiting from DEPP electricity.

• The Bill should ensure that all information used to formulate the energy master plan is in the public domain, and thus available for public consumption.

• The Bill should explicitly set a renewable energy target of 15% of electricity supply by 2020 to come from renewable energy sources such as Wind, Solar, Wave, and Tidal, on a non-cumulative basis.

• The Bill should empower the Renewable Energy Division within the South African National Development Institute to ensure implementation of such a target.

To view the full submission, please download the submission here.

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