South Africa has been struggling with its power supply for several years now with the country’s state-owned electricity provider, Eskom, resuming with load shedding earlier this year. The frequency of blackouts has sparked concerns about the economic impact of the crisis. Eskom may not have a clear vision of how to address the problem, but Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has finally presented an 18-month plan to create around 12 000MW of extra electricity capacity in order to combat the growing electricity demands in South Africa and prevent total economic collapse.
In a conference at Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, Johannesburg, Ramokgopa shared that immediate interventions will be implemented for the next six months. These interventions will include reducing infrastructure sabotage, improving power station efficiency, reducing maintenance works, and purchasing diesel worth R30 billion. Despite these interventions, there is no guarantee that load shedding will completely end by the end of the year. Instead, Ramokgopa believes that downscaling load shedding will be more plausible with these interventions.
One of the main reasons for power outages is infrastructure sabotage, which is exactly what Ramokgopa’s plan aims to address. Protecting key installations will ensure electricity is continuously supplied. Recently, electricity pylons were under attack in Pretoria, which also instigated water supply issues for Rand Water.
In order to reduce maintenance work needed for underperforming power stations, Ramokgopa has requested assistance from specialists to improve Eskom’s coal-fired power stations, particularly Medupi and Kusile power stations.
Renewable power is also a major concern for the nation. Power purchase agreements with Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe are being finalized to add renewable power onto the grid. The mistake that was made in the past with acquisitions was identifying preferred bidders in areas where there was no grid capacity to transmit electricity. Therefore, a bit of location targeting in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and North West will ensure Eskom’s better management.
Diesel procurement was also addressed by Ramokgopa. It was said that R30 billion came from two avenues which were the 18% tariff increase granted to Eskom and the R22 billion granted to them in terms of the fiscal relief offered by the finance minister. This confirmation does not mean that the money will be entirely used for diesel procurement, but it does provide a huge opportunity for the minister to understand how much money is going to be invested in the process. The plan also suggests that buying diesel directly from suppliers would save unnecessary procurement fees.
Eskom is also negotiating with Mozambique to get 1 200MW of extra capacity. Although the crisis is still not resolved, it’s comforting to know that the minister has a solid plan to tackle the electricity crisis in the country.