City of Cape Town taking Minister of Energy to court

As part of its efforts to become a greener and more environmentally friendly place, the City of Cape Town, wishes to accrue up to 20 per cent of its power needs from renewable energy independent power producers (IPPs) by 2020.

However, at present the City is at a deadlock as it is prevented from doing so due to national regulation around energy production and distribution. In response to this the City of Cape Town, led by the Major Praticia de Lille and the Democratic Alliance political party, are taking the national Energy Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to court. Joemat-Pettersson is a Minister under the African National Congress led government. 

de Lille claims the City needs greater control over its energy needs and should not as reliant on the national electricity provider, Eskom, as it currently is. In recent years Eskom has experienced leadership scandals and has been responsible for implementing load shedding where communities and towns have been restricted to a certain amount of electricity on a daily basis. Individuals and households have previously experienced periods where they are left in the dark due to the demand for electricity exceeding supply.

“We applied more than two years ago, for her to give us that permission to buy directly from IPPs and there’s nothing forthcoming. So, we have got no option but to go to court and ask the court to rule on it” de Lille has been quoted as saying.

In response to City of Cape Town’s request, Joematt-Pettersson, is required by law to then consult the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), but de Lille claims she has been ignored. Claiming it is not about any political differences de Lille said to BusinessDay “I seek no favours from this minister. It is about time she does her job and performs her constitutional functions.” 

For energy markets that are deregulated or becoming increasingly so, IPPs are raising their activity level and influence, particularly as renewable energy becomes a larger part of a city or distribution network’s energy generation. capacity However, where IPPs and electric utilities find common ground is in their need for regulatory certainty. At present this is impacting the City of Cape Town’s future renewable energy and IPP ambitions.

De Lille would like to see the City of Cape Town transform itself into a city which increasingly gets its power from renewable IPPs. In the process, it would not only support local businesses and communities but it would also empower Cape Town’s citizens by giving them increased energy options.

If the City of Cape Town is successful in its court case, what is then required is the actual ability and option to reliably source energy from IPPs. Commenting on the City of Cape Town’s actual ability to engage with IPPs if it is allowed to do so de Lille has said “We have the choices [to purchase power from IPPs], but we are prevented through national government from exercising these choices, so that is what we are testing”

Commenting further on this topic, she added “We would like to see a market for energy open up in Cape Town, where both the city and our citizens have greater choice over how they purchase and consume energy.”

One area in which the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape province, in which Cape Town is located, can and has already successfully engaged with IPPs is in the field of waste management. On 25 January 2017, de Lille spoke at the launch of the City of Cape Town’s ZAR 400 million waste-to-energy conversion plant, which is believed to be the first of its type in Africa, and said “This is an exciting addition to the green economy in Cape Town.”