South Africans have come to know load-shedding all too well, and as Eskom struggles to keep up with demand, the probability of the regular power outages persisting is increasing. In fact, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa confirmed that load-shedding will indeed still be with the country by the end of the year, despite hopes for recovery. The reality is bleak, with the energy crisis expected to have long-term implications.
Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa admitted at the ANC’s national executive committee meeting that it is impossible for the country to stop load-shedding by the end of 2023. Ramokgopa clarified that while load-shedding will still be with us by the end of the year, the government will do everything possible to ensure that it’s not as intense, aiming to keep the South African economy going. Yet, this statement contradicts the feedback he gave to President Cyril Ramaphosa during a special cabinet meeting just days before. At that time, Ramokgopa assumed that load-shedding could be decreased to stage 3 by September 2023 and ultimately eliminated by the end of the year if Eskom extended the lifespans of coal-fired power stations, which Ramokgopa now disputes.
This flip-flopping by the minister is nothing new, and it raises the question about the reliability of the government’s energy plans. The problems with Kusile, a coal-fired power station, are well-documented, and Ramokgopa’s denial of corruption and issues purely technical has been proven incorrect multiple times at the State Capture Commission. The commission revealed that Kusile’s problems are closely linked to corrupt contracts, including overruling power station engineers. Similarly, Ramokgopa took a controversial stance on expanding coal-generated power opposed to South Africa’s various commitments to switch to renewables to reduce its coal reliance. This stands in contrast to the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, National Infrastructure Plan, Energy Action Plan, and the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan.
The Minister’s proposal to retain and increase the fossil fuel’s contribution to the energy mix, especially in the face of global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and the move to eco-friendly energy alternatives, is a cause for concern. The focus on fossil fuels forward to invest in South Africa’s energy expansion plans negatively impacts investor’s confidence and jeopardizes the country’s progress towards sustainable energy sources. The Centre for Sustainability Transitions at Stellenbosch University’s professor, Mark Swilling, has criticised Ramokgopa’s proposals questioned their challenges and the feasibility of their implementation. Ultimately, the Minister’s stance on renewables like solar as base load is misguided, as the world steadily moves in that direction with successful solar base loads in certain countries.
There is no hiding the truth: load-shedding is going to be around for much longer, and despite the government’s plans, it’s essential for each South African to do their part in reducing their electricity usage to avoid severe load-shedding.