News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
3 minute read
1 Nov 2017
11:38 am

Mahlobo has no idea where the budget for nuclear will come from

Gosebo Mathope

The energy minister cautions that the country's energy surplus will be depleted when the economy grows, but can't say when the economic boom will hit.

Minister of Energy David Mahlobo at the SADC Double Troika summit on Lesotho on July 3, 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Simphiwe Nkwali)..

Speaking to the state broadcaster this morning, Energy Minister David Mahlobo could not say for sure where the money to fund the nuclear-build programme would come from.

Earlier this year, the High Court in Cape Town nullified deals signed on the implementation of the programme.

Speaking on the SABC’s Morning Live this morning, Mahlobo could not point out where the multibillion-rand expected expenditure on the nuclear some critics say had already been pledged to a Russian consortium would come from.

Delivering his maiden mid-term budget policy statement last week, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said the country had neither planned for the rumoured expenditure nor could the country afford it.

Leanne Manas asked Mahlobo whether the statement he made in parliament yesterday did not contradict National Treasury’s position on this.

“The question is about perpetuating the narrative that doesn’t move the centrality. The issue is to say, do you have sufficient energy needed to power the economy? There could be a surplus because the economy is not performing well. When the economy picks up, you need more energy.

“I think what we need to do is get to the narrative correct, because sometimes we get into a narrative that doesn’t help the country.

“Firstly, this country has an issue about energy security, at a particular point the economy was growing well. There was a commodities boom. Then because this country never planned for infrastructure for energy, the system crashed,” Mahlobo said.

READ MORE: Gigaba’s mid-term budget speech boosts investor confidence – SA govt

Defining the country’s energy mix as being constituted of renewable energy, which include solar, wind power and hydropower, he said all of them were “not infinite”. He said hydro-generated power could also not be relied upon, as South Africa is a “water-scarce country.”

He said nonrenewable sources of energy such as nuclear had “been part of … more than 30 years”.

“You also have your coal-powered stations. But there are issues around emissions and availability of coal. There is nothing new that we say is going to be done. As the economy booms, more energy is going to be needed.

“We are not going to build a nuclear plant of 9 600 megawatts without knowing [where the budget will come from],” Mahlobo expanded.

This prompted Manas to rephrase the questions and explain that there is a concern that the energy deal is a potentially corrupt one, as it is clear the country currently has an energy surplus.

“We need to say what is the role of the private sector and what is the role of the government? In a built environment, when you build something, someone can build on his own cost, you must not be able to pass the burden to the end user. When you come to the procurement, my aim is to supply energy at an affordable cost, but more importantly follow the laws which are transparent,” he said.

nuclear power station

FILE PICTURE: An aerial view of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station,  Cape Town. Picture: Die Burger/Esa Alexander/Gallo Images

Mahlobo also denied concerns in parliament yesterday that he was trying to rush the ‘Integrated Resources Plan‘ (IRP) on energy before the ANC’s elective conference gets under way in December. His predecessor, Mmamoloko Kubayi, has planned to have it approved just in time before the beginning of 2017-18 financial year around February 2018.

“The opposition by its own definition will oppose anything. The reason why IRP must be finalised [is that] every country must have an energy masterplan to create certainty. If you are going to have investor confidence, you need the masterplan. That IRP has been sitting in the department since April, why not go to South Africans and Cabinet with it?

“If you do that you will improve the economy and create more jobs,” Mahlobo explained.



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