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SA’s energy policy ‘do support aim to eradicate poverty’ by Matthews Mooketsane Bantsijang: Director

08 January 2014, 09:27

SA’s energy policy ‘do support aim to eradicate poverty’

Matthews Mooketsane Bantsijang: Director of Energy Policy and Regulation, DoE

(This document serves as the response to the document published on the 18th March 2011 written by Sue Blaine, on the statements claimed by Earthlife Africa).

It is said that Earthlife Africa claims that ‘increasing SA’s electricity capacity would not solve the country’s unemployment and poverty crisis. I totally disagree with the statement as job creation was prioritized when developing the balanced scenario of IRP 2 understanding that poverty eradication is top priority for the government, and job creation comes in close after that. I really would request that the Earthlife Africa look at the IRP 2010 published for comments last year to look the high figures of employment to be created on the implementation of Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP) and the background literature thereof before making such bases less statements. The document and further information can be found at the Departmental website of www.energy.gov.za or www.doe-irp.co.za.

Earthlife Africa further claim that SA’s eight-year-old free basic electricity policy, not seven-year-old, ‘provide so little energy that most poor people with access to electricity uses it only for lighting, turning to other power sources that, predominately, were poisonous, the organisation ‘. Of course it is a culture for all consumers to use and explore other sources of energy as alternative energy specially for heating purpose as they having more calories for house heating, but real poor consumers uses what they have and uses minimum electricity of around 50kWh per month as they are the poorest of the poor. One priority policy position of the Department is that the industry must promote for modern clean, safe and healthier energy products hence I say the allegations are skewed. The context of use of alternative energy is correct for those who can afford, but wrong to the poorest of the poor as they use what they have.

The Department of Energy has further have developed the Free Basic Alternative Energy Policy (FBAE) for the poorest of the poor to be supported by Municipalities through different service providers in order to support those who do not have conventional electricity and cannot qualify for Free Basic Electricity. FBAE further address a whole suite of socio-economic issues that arise from inadequate provision of energy to households, inter-alia, job creation, etc; to minimise health risk by promoting safe use of these energy carriers, to ensure that energy carriers chosen are sustainable, safe and easily accessible to the indigent households, and to maximize efficient use of energy carriers for the benefit of all citizens. Limited financial resources in poorer municipalities due competing interests for limited financial resources need to be seen as the main challenge here. The alternative energy ranges from gas, paraffin, biomass, coal non-exhaustive list of available energy carriers for mainly heating and cooking. However, we need to recognize that Municipalities have challenges on implementation of certain polices mainly due to limited funding, technical and human resources capacity in poorer municipalities and the other problem being targeting the poorest of the poor due to limited consumer data bases in small/poor/rural municipalities to facilitate provision, monitoring and evaluation of Free Basic Energy.

White Paper on the Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa December 1998, which the Department is to review, recognize that ‘ the energy is the life-blood of development which is about reducing poverty and about increasing access to basic needs so as to allow people the freedom of self development. It further emphasis that the ‘Government must promote access to basic energy services for poor households, in order to ameliorate the negative health impacts arising from the use of certain fuels. It recognizes that the energy security for low-income households can help reduce poverty, increase livelihoods and improve living standards. It promotes that poor consumers must have access to fuels that do not endanger their health hence basic energy needs must consider costs, access, health and technological interventions on the poor households. Let me also mentioned that the policy also stipulates that ‘the price of energy services to poor households will, necessarily, have to be subsidized at times since the fulfillment of basic needs remains a higher priority for government than the achievement of cost-reflective prices for this market segment hence we having this interventions to assist the poor.

The trend in other developed and developing countries is that there is pro-poor energy policy agenda which we are leading that include putting energy at the heart of poverty reduction strategies, providing aid support to sustainable energy options for the poor, develop financing mechanisms to reach the grass roots, increasing national capacity for sustainable energy, leveraging private sector partnerships to target and assist the poor, engaging the poor as active partners in delivering change and sharing the best practices of knowledge relating assisting the poor in energy industry.

After all, Earthlife Africa really needs to recognize and appreciate that SA’s policy makers had priorities the effect on the poorest of the poor or the ordinary people specifically on women.

Matthews Mooketsane Bantsijang: Director of Energy Policy and Regulation, DoE

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