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Load shedding in place to privatise Eskom: UDM
11 December 2019, 12:35 PM

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) says the current load shedding is possibly in place to privatise Eskom.

The party says the current rolling power blackouts are a slap in the face of the investment conferences that were hosted in South Africa.

The UDM blames the crisis on the alleged incompetence on the governing party.

UDM Chief Whip and Member of Parliament Public Enterprises Committee, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, says Stage 6 load shedding is an indication that the African National Congress’ (ANC) incompetence and maladministration has reached unacceptable levels.

“It points to the fact that we wasted time trying to organise investment conferences, because South Africa now is clearly going to go for a recession and jobs are going to be lost because of this negative effect of load shedding on the South African economy.”

“We are of a view that there is more to this than meets the eye. For instance, we think that there are more people who are benefiting or profiting handsomely from load shedding, who are using this in order to get hefty backhanders before Christmas. It is clear that there are also terms at play to try and blackmail South Africans into agreeing to an unbundling of Eskom that might lead to the privatisation of the entity,” adds Kwankwa

Campaigners demand EU action against Western Balkan heavy polluters
11 December 2019, 12:18 PM

Most Western Balkan countries have failed to fulfil the first requirement to meet European Union industrial emissions standards despite commitments governments made in 2005, environmental campaigners warned on Tuesday.

Total sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions in EU aspirants Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia and Kosovo in 2018 were six times higher than the 98 696 tonne ceiling set by the bloc, according to a report to be presented to the European Parliament by central and eastern European advocacy group CEE Bank watch Network.

In Serbia, the Kostolac B1 and B2 coal-power plants alone emitted more SO2 than permitted in total for the four countries by the Energy Community, a body which transposes EU energy standards to the bloc’s neighbours.

The campaigners demanded the EU impose a tax on carbon dioxide or a border carbon tax to ensure the region’s heavy polluters stop using a lack of investment in pollution control as a market advantage when exporting power to the bloc.

Bank watch said the EU should also give more powers to the Energy Community, strengthen its dispute settlement mechanism and ensure adequate penalties in cases of non-compliance.

“We want the European institutions to take this problem more seriously. But on this particular issue, we have clear evidence and action needs to be taken now,” Pippa Gallop, the report co-author, told Reuters.

The most polluting coal, lignite, is widely available in the region, providing the major and cheapest energy source. Power plants produce pollution across the EU and beyond that incurs healthcare costs of up to $12.68 billion a year, an earlier Bank watch report showed.

The group urged the Western Balkans to double down on efforts to invest in desulphurisation equipment.

Since 2016, when pollution from the region’s 16 coal power plants was estimated to have caused around 3 900 premature deaths, several have increased their emissions of SO2, dust and nitrogen oxides (NOX).

The report showed the four countries exceeded a ceiling of 11 018 tonnes of dust emissions in 2018 by more than 60%, although NOX emissions were lower than permitted for the region.

The region plans to add 2.7 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power capacity in the next decade, mainly financed by Chinese banks. Environmental advocacy groups have argued that most plants would not meet the EU’s pollution control rules.

Governments say expanding coal power generation meets rising demand and ensures energy security, arguing that new coal plants would emit less greenhouse gases.

“Investing in pollution control is not just a legal obligation. It is a duty for any government that cares about its people. It is time for all of us to step up our work to hold the Western Balkans governments accountable,” the report read.

Candles lit outside Czech hospital after deadly shooting
11 December 2019, 11:58 AM

People lit candles and laid flowers outside the entrance of a hospital in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava Tuesday evening, after a gunman killed six people before fleeing and fatally shooting himself in the head.

The attack happened in the waiting room in the early morning at the outpatient clinic of the University Hospital. Police said they received calls at 7:19 am and officers were on the scene five minutes later.

The 42-year-old shooter, identified as Ctirad Vitasek, fled the hospital after the attack, prompting a manhunt involving hundreds of officers. He later shot himself in the head in his car with a police helicopter flying overhead.

It was unclear what motivated the shooting in Ostrava, a city of 290 000 people 350 km east of the capital Prague and near the border with Poland.

The head of the regional police department said the attacker, who did not have a gun license and had a criminal record including instances of violence and theft, was silent as he carried out the shooting with a 9-millimetre Czech handgun.

It was the worst shooting in the Czech Republic, where gun crime is relatively rare since a man shot eight people dead and then killed himself at a restaurant in Uhersky Brod in 2015.

Ed Sheeran named Number One UK artist of the decade
11 December 2019, 11:15 AM

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has been named the “UK’s Official Number 1 Artist of the Decade”after a meteoric rise to music stardom, the Official Charts Company said on Wednesday.

His global hit “Shape of You” which spent 14 weeks as No.1 in 2017 was also named song of the decade.

The British four time Grammy Award winner also takes the “Official Chart Record Breaker Award” with the most no. 1 singles and albums as well as spending the most weeks – 79 – in the top spot between 2010 and 2019, the Official Charts Company, which compiles Britain’s weekly charts, added.

Previous recipients of that award include Paul McCartney and Justin Bieber.

“Ed truly has dominated this decade and is a worthy recipient of this amazing new award,” Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company, said in a statement.

“At the start of the decade, he was a little known (albeit highly rated) young 18-year-old lad from Suffolk – but his catalogue of achievements since then are genuinely remarkable. Today, he is firmly established among the highest level of global music superstars.”

Sheeran, now 28, first entered the UK charts in 2011 with debut single “The A Team”. He has since had eight UK no. 1 singles. His four studio albums each topped the British charts.

His global hit “Shape of You” topped the Official Charts Company’s list of the top 100 biggest songs of the decade, followed by “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars.

Two other Sheeran songs, “Thinking Out Loud” and “Perfect”, also made the top 10 of that list.

Adele’s “21” and “25” took the first two spots in the top 100 biggest albums of the decade. The British songstress picked up six Grammys for “21” and five of the awards for “25”, with both records topping charts around the world.

Three of Sheeran’s albums made the top 10.

Government’s plans to resolve electricity crisis too little too late: DA
11 December 2019, 10:57 AM

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s statement about government’s planned interventions to resolve the electricity crisis is too little to late.

The DA says it however welcomes Mantashe’s announcement to issue a Section 34 determination to empower Independent Power Producers in the bulk sale of electricity.

DA Spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Kevin Mileham says: “This Section 34 determines will allow municipalities and certain large power users to purchase directly from independent power producers.”

“But what the Minister hasn’t done, is he hasn’t given the authorisation for new generation from independent power producers which could come online quickly and easily to alleviate the crisis. When I say quickly and easily, within a number of months we could have renewable energy systems up and running and feeding energy into the grid.”

Meanwhile, City Power has urged customers to refrain from excessively using electricity while they are not being load shed.

This as Eskom continues to implement Stage 2 rotational load shedding until 23:00 on Wednesday night.

The power utility says, whilst it has managed to return several power stations, the probability for load shedding remains high for the rest of the week.

In an unprecedented move on Monday, Eskom implemented Stage 6 load shedding due to a shortage of capacity following a technical problem at Medupi power station.

City Power spokesperson, Isaac Mangena, has appealed for customers to help reduce the pressure on the system.

He says when the electricity goes off for four hours during load shedding, immediately when the switches go on again, consumers rush to switch on their stoves and geysers, and in that way it puts more pressure on the system.

“There are a lot of people coming onto the grid, and that is why we are having trips on cables and sub-stations blowing up. So we appeal to customers to play their part and ensure they gradually get into the system to avoid the instability for some time,” says Mangena.

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