Powering Forward: Johannesburg’s Ambitious Move to Decentralize Electricity

In an era where load shedding often darkens Johannesburg streets, City Power’s latest announcement promises a glimmer of hope for the city’s residents. A pivot from the age-old Eskom-centric model is in the works, as they’ve now secured deals with independent power producers (IPPs). Here’s what we know:

City Power’s Bold Play

City Power is riding high on the promise of an upcoming cost-saving for Johannesburg residents. Instead of relying solely on Eskom, the company has locked in deals with four IPPs. It’s worth noting, however, that two of these producers are yet to get the green light from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

Tshifularo Mashava, City Power’s CEO, passionately declared, “This is a short-term power purchase for about three years. These IPPs will give us a total of 92MW. The entity has made tremendous inroads to cushion Johannesburg residents from the gruelling effects of the ongoing load shedding. This is a step in the right direction, as we have always bought power from Eskom.

What’s the Mix?

  • Waste to energy
  • Gas to power
  • Photovoltaic (PV) solar generation

The City’s Perspective

Jack Sekwaila, the man in charge of environment and infrastructure services, emphasized the varied efforts being undertaken by City Power:

  • Innovation at Headquarters: Pilot tests are being run for rooftop PV systems at City Power’s head office, an initiative they hope to replicate across 700 city sites.
  • Bright Streets Ahead: High mast public solar lighting is becoming a common sight, illuminating various parts of Johannesburg.
  • Engaging the Public: With Nersa’s approval in the bag, they’re ushering in a system where residents equipped with PV solar setups can contribute their surplus power back to the city’s grid.
  • Going Solar: Sekwaila disclosed a massive initiative to roll out 20,000 solar geysers throughout Johannesburg, spanning even the Eskom-supplied regions.

A Broader Look

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The switch to IPPs isn’t solely a City Power pursuit. Prof. Miriam Altman of the University of Johannesburg mentioned, “Cape Town was doing that, and Joburg is doing it, and the City will be doing several things over the years to get moving.” She underlined the importance of this shift in the direction of more autonomy in energy management.

Business Unity South Africa’s Happy Khambule highlighted the tangible benefits, saying, “Localised energy production will increase energy security, making it easier for economic activity to continue and safeguard some key components emerging due to load shedding.

A Parting Word from Opposition

Nicole van Dyk of the DA weighed in on this development, praising the move and attributing its inception to their party’s initiatives in 2022. She brought to light a somber fact: a staggering 317 out of 365 days in the 2022/23 fiscal year were tainted by load shedding, culminating in a financial hit of about R2.5 billion due to unmet energy demands.

So, as the wheels turn on this ambitious project, the city and its residents wait with bated breath, hoping for brighter and more stable days ahead.

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