The respected head of South Africa’s Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office, Karen Breytenbach, has confirmed to Engineering News Online that she has been asked to vacate her position by the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
News of her departure was revealed in a Tweet on Monday afternoon by Anton Eberhard, who is emeritus professor and senior scholar at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. He also heads up the Eskom Sustainability Task Team, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to offer solutions to Eskom’s financial crisis.
Since 2011, Breytenbach has overseen R209-billion investment in 112 renewable-energy projects with “zero corruption”, Eberhard noted in his Tweet.
Breytenbach, 61, subsequently told Engineering News Online that she had indeed been asked to leave and that the DBSA and the DoE had indicated that an acting head of the IPP Office would be appointed until a permanent head was secured.
She said no reason was given as to why she was being asked to leave.
Earlier this year, an advert bearing the logos of the DBSA, the DoE and the National Treasury was placed in several national newspapers calling for applicants to apply for the position of IPP Office head.
When questioned about the advert at a media conference in April, former Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said that Breytenbach had his full support and would be continuing in the position.
It is understood, however, that, when Breytenbach’s contract expired in February, she was initially reappointed until the end of March and then until April 2020.
However, she has not been paid for the past five months and received a letter on Monday July 22 indicating that she was no longer the head of the IPP Office.
In his July 11, Budget Vote address, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe reported that the DoE was working closely with the DBSA to “transition the current IPP Office into a legal entity that will continue to execute the mandate of the department in bringing about security of energy supply”.
He added the conversion of the office into that of a “juristic institution” would ensure "stability" at the office, as well as “proper accountability of the IPP Office” to the executive of the department.
Breytenbach is held in high regard both locally and globally for having overseen the development and roll-out of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which is regarded as one of the best renewables competitive bidding programmes internationally.
She is also a pioneer of public–private partnership (PPP) projects in South Africa more generally, having been seconded to the IPP Office from the National Treasury, where she played a role in several PPP projects.
Her departure comes at a time when the government is hoping to increase investment generally, including investments in public infrastructure using the PPP model.