Load Shedding Exemption for Critical Public Services Faces Practical Challenges

South African Government to Challenge Court’s Load Shedding Ruling

In a recent development, energy experts have indicated that the government is likely to appeal a ruling by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. The court’s directive called for an end to load shedding at schools, hospitals, and police stations by January 31, a mandate experts deem impractical.

The Court’s Directive

Last Friday, the court mandated Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to ensure that critical public facilities such as police stations, public hospitals, clinics, and schools are exempted from load shedding. This ruling came as a response to the perceived breach of constitutional rights including human dignity, life, and access to basic education due to load shedding.

Presidential Review

President Cyril Ramaphosa, acknowledging the judgment’s implications, stated that he is reviewing the decision along with the concerned departments and will announce further actions soon.

Expert Opinions: Practicality and Affordability Concerns

  • Generators and Battery Systems: Professor Wikus van Niekerk noted the impracticality of the ruling, highlighting the challenges of implementing it. He pointed out that embedding these facilities in local grids makes it difficult to isolate them from load shedding. The alternatives, such as generators and battery systems supplemented by solar PV modules, are either financially unfeasible or demand significant upfront capital.
  • Budget Constraints: Van Niekerk also raised concerns about the availability of funds for fueling generators, a critical aspect of this alternative solution.
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Ruse Moleshe’s Insights

  • Interconnection Challenges: Moleshe emphasized the operational and logistical difficulties in exempting public facilities from load shedding, citing their integration within community grids.
  • Ministerial Procurement Limitations: He also noted that Minister Ramokgopa lacks procurement powers, complicating the implementation of the court’s orders.

Legal Perspectives and Government Response

  • Judge Norman Davis’s Stance: In his ruling, Judge Davis deemed the order equitable and necessary to safeguard constitutional rights.
  • Potential Appeal: The government, facing practical challenges, is expected to contest the high court’s decision, striving to find a feasible solution.

Background of the Case

The directive to halt load shedding in public facilities stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the UDM and Build One South Africa movement leader Mmusi Maimane, highlighting the adverse impact of power outages on essential services.