Since the launch of the Powerline Association of South Africa (POLASA) in August 2013, it has grown exponentially with more than 30 members of the industry having joined.
“This clearly indicates the dire need for this organisation and for its members to have representation in the complex commercial and political environment in which they operate,” says POLASA chairman Gary Whalley.
He adds that ESKOM too has welcomed the POLASA initiative. “They are grateful to be able to talk to industry without being exposed to selective sharing of information or allowing individual interests to dominate discussions,” says Whalley.
According to the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction’s (SAISC) Kobus de Beer, one of the main architects of the formation of POLASA, one of POLASA’s central concerns was the use by ESKOM of World Bank funding for the new Medupi power lines.
“The concern is that in terms of World Bank rules ESKOM is not allowed to specify local content and that the “designation” ruling by Minister Rob Davies on power pylons would therefore not apply. After an appeal to the Minister the exception was confirmed and the South African industry is forced to compete head on with the internationals,” says de Beer.
He adds, however, that it has been officially confirmed that the 15% import duties on these products from overseas will still apply. “POLASA is making every effort to encourage and assist its members to compete head on for the World Bank funded power line jobs now being issued,” says de Beer.
A number of other issues are also being explored such as possibly offering finance on power line projects, participation in the 18 CIPP preparation teams to provide input on South African capabilities, the giving of technical and other comments for ESKOM Standards and becoming more actively involved with distribution in South Africa. In addition, efforts continue to get the DTI to formally “designate” all power line hardware, which ESKOM says is already in the process of being implemented.
De Beer says that more work needs to be done to inform the DTI and other relevant bodies on the power line industry and its characteristics. “We have developed a detailed ‘Industry Paper’ which sets out the history of the industry and analyses its current status and needs. This will be submitted to the various parties and properly work-shopped in time.”
”POLASA will also continue to promote the development, growth and flexibility of its members through, inter alia, training and education initiatives, the development of export markets, adding value to engineering issues applicable to the industry in close co-operation with the SAISC, adding value to ESKOM activities by creating a platform to facilitate bilateral discussions between ESKOM and industry on issues not dealt with elsewhere, the publishing of various design and engineering handbooks and the organising of seminars, talks and conferences,” de Beer concluded.