The DA’s private member’s bill to introduce an independent electricity transmission operator by splitting it out of Eskom was harshly criticised by political parties across the board in parliament on Tuesday.

The ANC, IFP and EFF all emphatically rejected the bill at a meeting of the portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy. ANC members instead called for the Independent Market and System Operator (ISMO) Bill — which was passed by the National Assembly in 2013 and subsequently withdrawn — to be resuscitated and brought back to parliament.

The DA’s bill — the Independent Electricity Management Operator (IEMO) Bill — was introduced by DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone in December. Any MP has the right to introduce a bill, which is then considered by the relevant committee.

The bill proposes the establishment of an independent transmission company to manage the national electricity grid in the form of a public-private ownership. The IEMO would govern the buying and selling of electricity from electricity generators, including Eskom and independent private power producers. This would ensure that both Eskom and the private sector would have the same access to the electricity market, which will assist in opening up the electricity generation market, says the DA.

The IEMO Bill draws on the ISMO Bill with some variations, particularly that the transmission company include some private shareholding.

There have been conflicting views in the ANC on the ISMO Bill in the past. The party now wants the ISMO Bill to be brought back with ANC economic chief Enoch Godongwana saying recently that it was withdrawn because it was “ahead of its time.”

The government’s decision to split Eskom into three parts — generation, transmission and distribution — a year ago, has cleared the way for the establishment of a separate transmission company. The Eskom road map, published by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan last October, also states that the first step in the unbundling would be the creation of independent transmission company.

ANC MP Mikateko Mahlaule said he objected to the presence of private shareholders in the transmission company.

“Why would government pass legislation that has the effect of passing state-owned assets to a private company? ... The Eskom road map provides for the legal separation of transmission from generation and distribution. It does not provide for a private company. It is not within the interests of the people of SA for the grid to be in private hands,” he said.

The EFF put forward a similar view while the IFP said that it would be important for the state to maintain control of the transmission company.

Committee chair Sahlulele Luzipho ruled that the discussion would continue next week in the presence of the parliamentary legal adviser to advise on the process to be adopted in dealing further with the bill.

At issue, among other things, is whether public hearings must be held on the bill.



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