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MEC Alan Winde welcomes SONA announcements on energy, rail and water licenses for agriculture

Burning questions around energy announcements in SONA must be answered

Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde has welcomed announcements in the State of the Nation Address on energy, rail and water licenses for agriculture, which will positively impact the Western Cape, but says projects need specific time frames, and careful management.

The Western Cape has for a number of years called for many of the energy reforms announced last night. While we are pleased to see announcements on these, we hope to see more detail come out of the budget process on exactly how these will be implemented. Many of these are projects which we have been talking about for some time in South Africa and it is now time to move from talk to action.

We are however left with one burning question regarding the announcements: will municipalities be able to sell the power they procure from Independent Power Producers? Without wheeling agreements in place, all power procured will be for their own use only.

The national government must move with speed to implement last night's energy announcements, which will not only help to address the severe energy constraints in this country, but will contribute significantly to growing the alternative energy sector in the province.

The Western Cape has worked hard in recent years to put in place the framework to support alternative energy. 23 of our municipalities support Small Scale Embedded Energy, we have promoted the uptake of solar PV, and we have done a large part of the groundwork required for the implementation of gas projects. As a province, we are primed to take advantage of the excellent economic opportunities that green and alternative energy present for investment and growth.

Myself and Minister for Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier have already held an early morning meeting today with representatives from the City of Cape Town to explore what the announcement means for us. We are optimistic that this new way of looking at energy will be to the benefit of the Western Cape.

As the government of this province, we stand ready to support our municipalities to start to implement projects, especially with regards to the Section 34 announcement, which will enable certain municipalities to procure power from Independent Power Producers.

We are however concerned at the constraints in the SONA announcement that indicate that this will only be available for municipal own-use. Such a limitation does not make sense, especially given the very serious energy challenges our country faces.

My commitment to the Western Cape is that we will work hard and fast to make maximum use of the opportunities that these announcements provide.

President Cyril Ramaphosa also announced a R1.4 billion allocation towards fixing the central railway line in the Western Cape. This line has been rendered dysfunctional, impacting thousands of commuters daily. I welcome the fact that the President is taking this matter seriously but, given PRASA's extreme mismanagement of the service, and poor governance track record I hope that the allocation will not be made directly to them, so that it can be properly managed.

The Western Cape Government has called for the management of rail in the province to be handed to us and we are volunteering to work in conjunction with the City of Cape Town and our national counterparts to ensure that this project is completed timeously, effectively and is well managed. This allocation could provide an opportunity to work together in a pilot project to ensure that we build a safe, and efficient rail service.

President Ramaphosa also announced additional safety measures including a focus on the anti-gang unit in the Western Cape and the establishment of a specialist University to improve the quality of investigations.

The Western Cape Government is committed to building a safer province, and a partnership with SAPS is important as we roll out our own safety plan. We look forward to working with SAPS on this new intervention.

Finally, I welcome President Ramaphosa's announcement that water license applications, which have up until now taken up to five years to finalise, are being finalized within 90 days.

The removal of this red tape will impact farmers in our province significantly. Agriculture and agri-processing in this province are significant employers, creating approximately 300 000 jobs, and attempts to remove the costly red tape associated with water licensing are extremely welcome.

Source: Government of South Africa

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