On the 27th and 28th of November, members of the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the City attended an energy conference at a leading hotel on the Waterfront. This was a high level conference as global energy regulars and energy producers were represented. As usual government leaders disappointed. Firstly, Minister Dipuo Peters did not attend and send a colleague for the opening remarks. The colleague was a former National Party campaign organiser who is now a Member of Parliament for the ANC. Apparently he received short notice, rambled through the opening and cordially left. Next was the National Department of Energy who send a deputy director. Though the young man was eloquent and knowledgeable about his specific area of expertise it was a bit like sending an enthusiastic trainee feather weight into a boxing ring with a three time heavy weight world champion. While the young man gallantly stood his ground as an official, he was completely out of his depth as many questions were political. Eskom did itself no favours when its representative stated that Eskom had a local content problem as local companies delivered an inferior quality product. His slating of local welders caused a private company {DCD} to suggest that Eskom should consider the quality of their own training programs and also Eskom’s commitment to skills development and job creation. By day two the gloves had clearly come off.

The Zimbabwean delegation was permanently in a suppliant position. After everything that happened under Mugabe, the Zimbabweans were imploring their readiness to do business. According to their energy regulator, the government had no capability or choice as it required private capital to manage the energy needs of Zimbabwe. While the world moved towards nuclear and fossil fuel energy, the Japanese would have replaced its reliance on nuclear by 25% with hydrogen energy by end of 2013.

Since the lack of trust between private energy producers and African governments was palatable Dean Cooper the Head of Energy Finance at the United Nations introduced the Financial Risk Management Instruments. Long story short, what he suggested was the introduction of an insurance policy to protect private capital in volatile African countries. Business was not prepared to invest in Africa just to have its money and infrastructure nationalized or privatized by another of Africa’s transitional, revolutionary, interim or dictatorial governments.

Towards the conclusion of day two, I felt sorry for Michael Johnson- Deputy Executive Director for Operations- US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Americans seemed proud of a new concept of modular nuclear reactors. Countries could buy the reactors ready-made and then simply build them like a Lego Block set as per energy requirement. Unfortunatly none of the Americans understood the cost of construction, time frames or cost per megawatt. Michael estimated figures. This created consternation as a Chinese contractor who produced energy from solar, stated that his company could produce the equal megawatts at a third of the price within one tenth of the American time frame.

In the end, it was, that we were discussing renewable and saving energy while confined to a ballroom with almost a hundred lights blazing that concerned me. Had the organisers opened the luxurious thick curtains to allow sunlight into the venue, the conference would have made a little more sense.

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress