Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

"Sustainability Comes at a Price" (Budget 2019, February 21-27) emphasises that SA’s energy needs must be met with alternatives. But we cannot afford to let our panic to keep the lights on overshadow the need to scrutinise our energy future, especially when we’re importing power.

SA needs affordable, reliable and clean energy that drives investment, creates jobs, fosters critical skills development, helps us curb climate change and kicks our struggling economy into gear. The last thing we should be doing is taking uncalculated risks on mega-projects we can’t control or manage.

A case in point is the Inga 3 hydropower agreement SA concluded with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2014: it will produce expensive and unreliable hydropower that will take at least 15 years to come on line — besides the inevitable delays, cost overruns and opportunities for corruption.

This imported power will cost local consumers at least R400m more a year than 2,500MW of renewable energy produced locally.

SA also has to invest 5% in the R200bn project. That’s R10bn — or more, given the rand’s volatility and the fact that mega-projects’ costs usually escalate.

We’re also in the dark about the cost of the 1,600km power transmission line from the southern DRC to SA (which we must fund), along with security and maintenance costs. And there’s no guarantee of supply, so we’ll remain at risk of cuts.

Importing expensive Inga 3 energy won’t solve our energy crisis, nor will it do anything to fix our ailing economy. But generating 2,500MW-5,000MW of renewable energy ourselves will go a long way.

There may be a light at the end of our energy crisis tunnel — but it doesn’t come from the DRC.

Rudo Sanyanga
Africa programme director, International Rivers, Pretoria