It is three years since the department of energy was divorced from its bigger, sexier government partner, the department of mineral resources. This year, to her credit, Dipuo Peters successfully launched the renewable energy independent power procurement programme, reaching financial close on its first phase. Sourcing independent power is something the department could never do, despite decades of talk. But her team leaned heavily on the treasury to pull it off.
Peters`s department is responsible for driving policy, something it is failing to do. Much promised reform in the electricity sector contained in two critical Bills – the Independent Systems and Market Operator Bill and the Electricity Regulation Second Amendment Bill – has been substantially delayed. Critical policy documents important for energy planning, such as the integrated energy plan and an energy security master plan for the liquid fuels sector, have not been produced. The failure to review South Africa`s 20-year electricity road map, known as the integrated resource plan, leaves electricity planning blind to new developments such as the potential to produce electricity from abundant and relatively cheap natural gas. Without these policies in place, industry development is hampered.
Her department`s unqualified audit report, an achievement that most of the entities reporting to her also managed, is a feather in Peters`s cap. But, despite filling many vacancies, it is way behind on its electrification programme and the roll out of solar water heaters. The department is also struggling to audit local refinery capacity, which is supposed to provide clarity on the need for PetroSA to go ahead with it mega-refinery project, Mthombo.
Despite the national planning commission`s call for a thorough, transparent review of the financial implications of a nuclear procurement programme, her department supports it without openly revealing whether there would be cost benefits to the country. But this is a Cabinet-led initiative, so her political colleagues carry some responsibility for this too.