COSATU Energy Summit Statement

21 June 2023

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) convened an Energy Summit over 20 and 21 June with its affiliated unions, relevant government Ministers, the Presidential Climate Commission, and our Alliance Partners, the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). 

This was based upon the call by COSATU’s 14th National Congress to convene an energy summit, to amongst others, discuss measures to practically support the Energy Action Plan to end load-shedding, address criminality in and around ESKOM, improve the performance of power stations, and identify interventions to protect and create jobs.

This Summit was held as South Africa’s energy crisis remains in a critical stage. Loadshedding continues to threaten economic growth and job creation and the ability of workers to earn their salaries. It also means businesses struggle to keep operations going. Households and businesses are experiencing blackouts for up to 10 hours a day. It is only a matter of time before load-shedding induces inflation, resulting in further unaffordable interest rate hikes.

There is a need to engage extensively on the current energy crisis we are faced with as a country.  The COSATU Secretariate with COSATU’s Affiliates, Ministers, the Presidential Climate Commission and experts met to enrich the discussion on the current energy crisis and help craft proposals on the future of South Africa’s energy mix and ensure that the Energy Transition is a Just one that protects workers and working-class communities.

This Energy Summit brought together relevant stakeholders for complex engagements on energy security and broadly the energy crisis. COSATU’s Affiliates brought their sectoral perspectives to ensure sufficient representation in the deliberations on the current crises. The Federation has, in conceptualizing the Summit, included the inputs from Alliance Partners (the ANC and SACP), and reflections from the Ministers occupying key portfolios in this discussion.

COSATU has received detailed information on the President’s Energy Action Plan and progress in its implementation, including the Electricity Planning and Recommendations for South Africa’s Electricity Future. We are anticipating that the plans will adequately respond to the current challenges faced by South Africans and address the issue loadshedding and energy poverty.

Ensuring a Just Energy Transition is a central demand of COSATU and its Affiliates.  It is critical that the Energy Transition does not send workers to the unemployment queue or condemn communities, in particular in Mpumalanga, to poverty, despair or hopelessness.  Government and business need to take this matter seriously and move from a state of commitment to one of action.  We need to invest in the skills of workers, formal and in the value chain and affected communities and to have jobs plans in place.  Investments in local renewable energy manufacturing capacity need to be expedited.  In an economy battling a stubbornly high unemployment rate of over 42%, we cannot afford to leave any worker or community behind.

COSATU also weighed in on ESKOM and its functioning. The Summit emphasized the role of the State in ensuring that ESKOM is not hallowed out through privatization. In the domestic experience of Independent Power Producers, we continue to push for a public pathway for renewable energy, in particular, that ESKOM be supported in investing in its own generation capacity.

The Federation takes the issue of energy democracy very seriously and we believe that if a just transition is implemented in the manner that COSATU envisages, where there is transparency and meaningful engagement with workers and communities at the core of the transition, that it can be a Just Energy Transition. It is through collaboration and commitment to a fair and just transition that we can address the energy crises and the other socio-economic challenges South Africa faces.

The Integrated Resource Plan is an important policy document for South Africa’s energy needs. COSATU is preparing for engagements on updating the Integrated Resource and Energy Plans to ensure they reflect the energy needs of workers and the poor, achieve energy democracy and unlock economic growth.

COSATU remains opposed to Treasury’s conditions on the debt relief package for Eskom that prohibit the power utility from investing in new generation capacity over the next few years. This constrains the utility from participating meaningfully in renewable energy generation and places it in danger of perpetual loadshedding as its energy fleet continues to age and show wear and tear from constant high levels of use. COSATU will continue push for this decision to be reversed.  The state needs to drive renewable energy generation and not simply abandon it to the private sector.

We will continue to engage government on more favourable JET Investment Plan conditions.  The ratio of grants to loans needs to be increased, and the loan conditions made more favourable to avoid saddling South Africa with debt that it cannot afford.  Eskom and investments in local manufacturing capacity need to be included in these JET IP opportunities.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:

Lebogang Mulaisi (COSATU Head of Policy)
Cell: 082 897 8222/ E-mail: lebogang@cosatu.org.za