The National Planning Commission (NPC) had long been off most people’s radar screens by the time the stage 6 load-shedding crisis erupted in July. But the commission made an unexpected comeback, and proposed the declaration of an “energy emergency” to enable government to override the red tape blocking the delivery of new private generation capacity.      

The proposal was taken up by politicians and others who seemed to believe a state of emergency could be just as effective in fighting load-shedding as the state of disaster was in fighting Covid-19. But it attracted widespread condemnation from the experts — not just because it could have set a dangerous legal precedent but also because it wasn’t obvious why it was needed at all...

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