If the government is to implement a new court ruling ordering it to provide alternative power supplies and diesel for generators to clinics, hospitals, police stations and schools – taxpayers could be called on to pay more, reports the Sunday Times.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan was ordered by the Pretoria High Court on Friday (6 May) to “take all reasonable steps within 60 days” to stabilise power supply to certain institutions during load shedding.

According to the court, if a building or area can’t be isolated from the grid to exempt it, Gordhan must make arrangements for alternative power supplies such as generators.

The court ruled that exemptions can only be granted if they do not pose a risk to the stability of the national electricity grid by being ‘embedded’ into the surrounding network.

On top of that, the court found that the government had repeatedly gone against its constitutional and legal obligations to provide adequate healthcare, security and education due to continual rolling blackouts.

Vincent Magwenya, the spokesperson for the presidency, said that the ruling was, however, very likely to be appealed.

“We have significant concerns about the judgment and its impact on the stability of the grid and the negative effect on the fiscus,” the spokesperson said.

The department of public enterprises and the office of the electricity minister are both ‘studying’ the recent ruling and will respond at a later time, reported the Sunday Times.

Eskom’s legal team is also reviewing the judgment.

Court proceedings followed an application made by labour unions and civil society organisations that demanded the exemption of small businesses and agriculture.

The court ruling also comes during heightened concern over the level load shedding could reach during winter when demand peaks and supply whithers.

Sunday Times reported that energy expert Alwie Lester said the ruling was impractical and lacked rationale. Lester noted that capital and running costs could ultimately choke the judgment.

“There are several thousand schools, hospitals and police stations around the country,” said Lester.

“There would be the capital and running costs of generators which, in my view, would run into the millions nationally. Not sure who pays for this.”

According to the publication, Wayne Duvenage, the CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), said that the judgment would not achieve much.

He said that sourcing alternative power supplies, such as generators, would cost a lot of money.

“It’s not just the generators; it’s the diesel. It will cost the taxpayer a lot because general taxes fund the hospitals and police stations. Most of these hospitals already have generators.”

South Africans have cumulatively spent more than a month in the dark this year, and researchers and analysts suspect things will only worsen.

There have been multiple calls for concern over the coming winter and its effect on the country’s electricity supply.

Continual rolling blackouts come as cash-strapped taxpayers are already being asked to pay more for electricity. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) granted an 18.65% tariff increase earlier this year.

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