News in South Africa 12th September:

1. Load shedding adverse effects:

South Africa’s plans to add 5,200MW of renewable energy to its grid faces pressure from a perfect storm of global events, which will push up prices and hamper progress.

Load shedding adverse effects
Image taken by: Pixabay

Business Leadership South Africa chief executive officer Busi Mavuso said that South Africa risks falling behind in its plans as many countries turn to renewable energy in reaction to growing demand and geopolitical events that have erupted over the last few months.

This is while South Africa itself is in crisis and desperate for new power generation amid the worst levels of load shedding on record.

Mavuso pointed out key events that are creating a storm for future energy plans:

  • In South Africa, Eskom’s grid is under constant pressure, with load shedding becoming more frequent and higher stages more common.
  • California had warnings of blackouts last week as extreme temperatures led everyone to switch on their air conditioners and put the grid under unprecedented pressure.
  • The EU and UK are facing record gas and electricity prices, leading to a cost-of-living crisis. The EU is desperately trying to reduce its reliance on Russian gas for energy.
  • China plans to add at least 100,000MW of renewable energy over the next five years.

This means there is a global rush on components for solar and wind energy production that will complicate global supply chains and capacity, Mavuso said – just as South Africa is planning an aggressive ramp-up in build rates of its own.

“Already we have been tripped up by global conditions. Round 5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme has been caught out by delays between the finalisation of preferred bidders and financial close.”

Financial close happens when all financial terms, including the amounts needed for capital expenditure and the cost of finance, are agreed upon and signed off. Up to that moment, projects are vulnerable to moving market prices.

With global demand for renewables now increasing, Round 6 of the programme will also be affected.

“We are now progressing into a massive new 5.2GW Round 6 of the programme that will be hitting global production capacity at the same time as global demand has spiked. Prices are very likely to exceed what was bid in Round 5,” Mavuso said.

“Delays must be avoided at all costs. The longer the time between preferred bidder and close, the higher the chance that market prices will move.”

2. SARS warnings:

SARS has more information at its disposal than taxpayers think, experts warn – and big spenders’ days of trying to fool the taxman are coming to an end.

The revenue service’s new focus is on unexplained wealth, and auditing people whose tax affairs are out of step with their lifestyles is ramping up.

It has gained access to a worldwide network of information and data points to sniff these offenders out.

3. Joburg bills pile up:

The City of Joburg (CoJ) is racking up huge legal costs by failing to address billing issues raised by residents timeously, before they reach the courts. It routinely opposes applications, which it then loses with costs – which are paid out of revenue squeezed out of ratepayers.

This is a vicious cycle that results in a further burden of unfair tariff increases that residents have no choice but to shoulder, according to the Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association (JPOMA).

JPOMA represents the interests of landlords of 150 000 inner-city households that jointly pay CoJ R80 million in rates and taxes per month, “yet we cannot rely on the services we pay for and have no choice but to eventually resort to costly legal interventions,” according to its general manager Angela Rivers.

The organisation has announced another court application challenging a unilateral CoJ decision to bill sewerage services provided to certain blocks of flats at the higher fixed rate specified for “multi-dwellings” and to backdate this to 2018.

This follows a similar application by JPOMA in relation to charges for refuse removal.

City ‘contradicting its own tariff policy’

Regarding the current application, Rivers says: “This policy of billing a fixed rate according to property type and size is completely unfair and contradicts CoJ’s own tariff policy, which stipulates that the amount individual users pay for services should generally be in proportion to their use of that service.

“Instead, the city even bills properties that are unoccupied and using no water or sewerage services whatsoever.”

According to Rivers, the tariff determination by law makes provision for three different sewerage rates structures for “flats”, “multi-dwellings” and “private dwellings [houses]”.

The “multi-dwelling” category is commonly accepted to pertain to complexes with separate townhouses, while flats are described in the city’s own bylaws as units within a single multi-storey building with a single common entrance.

The fixed rate for multi-dwellings is almost double that for flats, with a house being charged the same as a flat when on an erf up to 300m2, and the same as a multi-dwelling when on an erf between 300m2 and 1 000m2.

“We now have a situation where the individual flats in a block that straddles two erven is charged at the same higher fixed rate that applies to a multi-dwelling and a house on a 1 000merf,” says Rivers.

4. New tech to save rhinos:

Injecting small traces of radioactive material into a rhino’s horn could go a long way in halting cross-border smugglers and poachers, using the same method already stopping the movement of nuclear weapons.

More than 3,200 rhinos have been poached in South Africa in the last five years. The Kruger National Park’s rhino population has declined by close to 60% over the past decade. The demand for rhino horns, especially in Asia, has left the species critically endangered.

Heavily armed poachers, funded by international crime syndicates, continue to infiltrate South Africa’s government reserves and private property, with rangers and police unable to effectively stem the illicit flow of horn beyond the country’s borders.

But a new project, led by Professor James Larkin, director at the radiation and health physics unit at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), aims to severely disrupt these smuggling operations by taking the fight to the border posts.

The Rhisotope Project looks to use nuclear science in a novel way for conservation by making rhino horns radioactive. It aims to do this by embedding small traces of radioactive material that are non-lethal to the rhino into the horn.

Technology that’s used globally to detect radioactive material, in response to the war on terrorism to stop the cross-border movement of nuclear weapons, can then be used to identify the horns and the gangs attempting to smuggle them. This is done through handheld radiation scanners, which are already part of the border guards’ toolkit.

“There are about 11,000 installed radiation monitors in airports, harbours and border crossings, and this means that a [rhino horn] shipment will have a greater risk of being detected,” said Larkin, in a report first published by Wits.

“It will be like putting a car tracker into a horn.”

The Rhisotope Project hopes that better detection will lead to the arrest of smugglers, which, in turn, will break a vital link in the illicit supply chain. Larkin also hopes that once it’s known that horns contain radioactive material, they’ll be less desirable, thereby decreasing demand.

5. Deadline for state capture cases:

The National Prosecuting Authority has two weeks to meet its own deadline to take high-profile state capture cases to court.

While the NPA has started three court cases, none of those arrested or involved are high-profile politicians fingered in the revelations from the state capture commission.

A miss on the end-September deadline could prompt renewed scepticism about the NPA’s resolve and capacity to prosecute.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Fin24, Moneyweb, Business Insider, and BusinessLive.

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