'Not enough money to connect'
Cape Town - Fewer than 90 000 households could be connected to the electricity grid on the budget set aside for 2006/07 -- far short of the target of 500 000 per year, parliament's minerals and energy portfolio committee has reported.
The government's Integrated National Electricity Programme (INEP) seeks to electrify half-a-million households each year.
But funding in the current budget only allowed for 89 525 connections, the committee said in a report distributed on Thursday.
The minerals and energy department, it said, was behind schedule in terms of its target of universal access to electricity by 2012.
Inadequate financial allocations were to blame.
"The committee recommended that a briefing session be arranged with the national treasury to enhance members' understanding of how allocations were made to departments that were tasked with specific goals by the president, but lacked the financial resources to implement."
The report, based on deliberations on the department's 2006/07 budget vote, expressed concern over a lack of consultation and information around the planned establishment of a seventh regional electricity distributor (RED).
The committee had been narrowly involved in work on the other six REDs.
No evaluation process
"The committee was not aware of any evaluation of the RED process which would inform the viability of a seventh RED, nor had it been involved in any discussion in relation thereto.
"The committee, therefore, questioned its establishment at a time when only one of the six REDs had been launched."
The department had responded, the report said, that a "process of engagement" with the committee should ensue.
On the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), the committee expressed dissatisfaction with the department's "lack of response" to its questions.
It had wanted to know what was being done to identify suitable sites for high-level nuclear waste, and how much more money would be required.
The department had responded that the governance, operational and shareholding functions were located in the department of public enterprises.
Seek PBMR clarity
"The committee resolved to seek clarity on the situation of the PBMR project through facilitating a joint inter-ministerial meeting," the report stated.
"The committee was also concerned about the minimal role the state utility on nuclear issues, the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa), had to play in the PBMR process.
"It recommended that a much more meaningful role for Necsa in the PBMR process be explored."