Helen Zille. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Helen Zille. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Western Cape premier Helen Zille has hit out at the Department of Energy for apparently trying to defend Eskom’s monopoly.

During her state of the province address on Friday, Zille expressed her unhappiness at the department for dragging its feet in allowing the city of Cape Town to purchase electricity directly from independent power producers.

In terms of current legislation, municipalities wishing to procure energy directly from independent power producers have to get permission from the energy minister.

"We have … engaged National Treasury and the Department of Energy numerous times on the business case for direct power procurement," Zille said. "We believe that allowing municipalities to enter into contracts with independent power producers is a four-fold win: cheaper electricity prices, lower carbon emissions, more investment and more industrialisation. This ultimately means more local jobs. The city of Cape Town is pushing hard for the right to do this."

Zille added: "Unfortunately, we have had no meaningful response to date from the Department of Energy, and we are concerned that they may well be trying to defend Eskom’s monopoly. Mayor [Patricia] De Lille has been clear about her plans to pursue the city’s legal options in this regard, and we will support her."

De Lille recently said the city would approach the courts over the department’s delay in granting the council permission to buy power from green producers. The city needed to gain greater control of its energy future and reduce its reliance on Eskom, De Lille said.

On Friday, Zille said the province would continue supporting municipalities to develop long-term plans for integrating metering and financial systems, with the aim of accommodating solar energy feed-ins for the grid.

Later in February, the province will launch its Rooftop PV Campaign to encourage businesses to switch to solar energy, stay on the grid and save on their electricity bill.

Zille also spoke about the need to attract more investment to the province.

"Since the start of this term, we have secured over R5.9bn worth of investments for the Western Cape, through our excellent economic development and investment agency, Wesgro," she said. "This resulted in 1,865 new jobs from 2014 to 2016.We have also closed a total of 25 trade deals to the value of R8.6bn since 2014, creating 662 new jobs."

A Cape Investor Centre is due to be launched later this year. Zille said the centre would serve as a "one-stop shop" for investors, enabling them to complete local, provincial and national regulatory processes in a single location, under the professional guidance of a single relationship manager.

"The investor centre follows the approach of our red tape unit, now in its seventh year of operation. The unit continues to maintain an 85% resolution success rate in solving the 6,000 cases of red tape blockages it has dealt with," she said.

The province was looking to unlock R1bn in red tape savings by 2019, with a provisional estimate of R600m in savings or benefits to date.

Zille said the provincial cabinet had further resolved that regulatory impact assessments be done for new legislation and significant policies, to avoid unintentionally creating new red tape barriers that stifled growth.

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