S. African opposition vows to break energy monopoly amid power crisis

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-29 14:08:09|Editor: Xiaoxia
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CAPE TOWN, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Amid a worsening power crisis, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) vowed on Thursday to break energy monopoly by state-owned electricity utility Eskom.

This followed the most severe rolling blackouts over the past week, which have crippled businesses and industries, hampered transportation and affected over 8 million people at any given time.

Poor management and alleged corruption at Eskom, which provides about 95 percent of the electricity consumed in the country, are believed to be the major factors that have led to the power crisis.

The DA said it will present a motion in every municipal council nationwide in which it opposes acquiring permission from Minister of Energy Jeff Radabe to bring online Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

Eskom's electricity monopoly has excluded IPP from the national grid, enabling Eskom to hold the country "hostage," said Kevin Mileham, DA shadow minister of energy.

"For too long, Eskom has held this country hostage with its monopolistic grip on power generation, distribution and transmission," Mileham said.

It is an archaic system which should have been broken up many years ago, he said.

"We have developed a parliamentary bill, the cheaper electricity bill, to break up this monopoly and free up the generation component of Eskom which is currently with parliamentary legal services," Mileham said.

The city of Cape Town, administered by the DA, has filed lawsuits against the minister of energy and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) to allow the city to source power directly from IPPs and challenge the existing status quo where Eskom is the single supplier, said Mileham.

DA mayors will also write to the energy minister, asking him to allow IPPs to provide electricity for municipalities, according to Mileham.

The DA will continue to fight for a competitive and diverse energy landscape that will provide stable and affordable electricity prices for all, said Mileham.

"A stable electricity grid will stabilize our economy and prevent any further job shedding due to Eskom's rolling power outages," he added.

Embattled Eskom has been accused of using load shedding to blackmail the government into helping it repay its heavy debt amounting to 420 billion rand (28.78 billion U.S. dollars) so as to prevent it from bankruptcy.

But the utility has denied the allegation, saying the recent load shedding was caused by the breakdown of several power stations.

It also says it implements load shedding as a last resort to protect the national system from a total collapse which would have a significant impact on the economic development of South Africa.

South Africa has suffered from power insufficiency since 2008. Power cuts, which have cost billions of dollars, have again become commonplace since February when Eskom implemented the most extensive load shedding in recent years, plunging large parts of the country into darkness.