Partners in progress

The urgent need for private and public players to shed their silos and collaborate to secure power for the future was a recurring theme at the seminar.

The “Synergy for Energy” seminar hosted by the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme recently showed how a range of well-planned initiatives are coming together to improve the reliability of the electricity supply in local municipalities within the iLembe district.

The seminar enabled robust engagement between representatives of municipal, provincial and national government and private developers, business operators and the iLembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

Private and public sector delegates discussed prevailing challenges and emerging opportunities in developing a reliable electricity supply. Many participants remarked that they had not had an opportunity to date to talk directly and openly with other role-players in the room on issues which had an impact on all parties present.

Throughout the discussions, this underlying theme recurred – the lack of sufficient co-operation and partnership development between business operators and the municipalities could put the long-term plan for a secure, consistent power supply at risk.

Discussions were often heated given the passion of the people present striving to fulfil their respective public or private mandates.

A big gap in the development process soon became apparent – effective platforms for sharing perspectives and resolving disparate positions were few and far between. Closer inter-governmental relations are required so that national and provincial government initiatives that support local government can be initiated and expedited.

The need to pool resources, plans and programmes was evident down the line of the entire supply chain, from small- and medium-scale generation to transmission networks to regulations and tariffs related to producers and consumers.

Municipalities do not have the technical expertise and resources to instal renewable energy solutions on their own. Private enterprise has the skills and the resources, but they perceive that their efforts are often hampered by the absence of enabling policy and regulations which are conducive to developing renewable energy options.

Everyone agreed that a reliable electricity supply is central to all economic and social activity, and to attracting investment, economic growth, and overall developmental progress in the district. But disparities in policy, practice and pricing among private and public parties proved that it will not be possible to achieve this goal without a working platform to resolve issues.

Support for this notion came from many quarters.

The iLembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism proposed that those present at the seminar should seek a meeting with Eskom officials to jointly discuss several issues that emerged, especially around renewable energy opportunities.

Representatives of international infrastructure developer Zutari indicated that collaboration between partners in the private and public sector was essential to resolve issues and bring real benefits for municipalities, power producers and consumers.

Road paved with partnerships

It was proposed that collaboration can be strengthened by creating effective platforms for engagement and holding regular workshops. Private sector skills and resources should be used to assist government where possible. It was essential to create a conducive enabling environment, bring in expertise where it is needed, and improve the security of supply through embedded generation, according to Zutari.

The private company’s success in developing large energy infrastructure projects in Africa and the Middle East suggests that everyone involved in producing energy should take note, if they have not already: the road ahead must be paved with partnerships.