Amid the prevailing power crisis in South Africa, the nation’s Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa offers a silver lining: predicting a notable reduction in load shedding stages by the close of this year and reassurance that Stage 6 will be a thing of the past come 2024.
The Current Power Situation
As it stands, South Africans are navigating through a tumultuous period of high-level load shedding. Data from Eskom, the primary electricity supplier, suggests a grim picture with 2023 witnessing more hours of Stage 6 load shedding than the previous year. With such a scenario, the Minister’s promise for respite seems like a beacon of hope amidst a sea of darkness.
Shedding Light on Load Shedding
Minister Ramokgopa’s comments, which came during a recent interview with Talk Radio 702’s Clement Manyathela, generated a buzz as the nation yearns for a solution to the incessant power outages. This revelation, optimistic as it may sound, does contradict previous statements by both the Minister himself and Gwede Mantashe, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy. Both had opined that ending load shedding within a few months was a technical impossibility. However, Mantashe seemed to shift his stance later, expressing hope for an end to load shedding by year-end.
New Measures to Counter Power Crisis
Minister Ramokgopa also shed light on an array of measures in place to alleviate the power crisis. These include:
- Increase in Energy Availability: The Energy Minister noted a considerable improvement in energy availability to 53%. This has been aided by Eskom’s contribution of an additional 2,000MW, pushing the average energy generation from 26,000MW to nearly 28,000MW in just the past month.
- Extra Electricity Generation & Demand Reduction: Governmental plans are underway for augmenting electricity generation and curtailing electricity demand. Key highlights include securing 80MW from Mozambique and three additional units at Kusile, promising an extra 2,400MW. Further, negotiations are in progress to draw an additional 1,000MW from Mozambique over the next six months.
- Unleashing Solar Power Potential: Plans are also afoot to tap into the surplus electricity generated by Solar PV panels, currently left “stranded”. This could add another 3,200MW to the grid.
- Demand Reduction in Domestic Sector: The government has shown a keen interest in pilot projects aimed at reducing electricity demand by installing geysers within housing units. Early success stories have been reported in Cape Town and City Power in Johannesburg.
Harnessing Karpowership’s Potential
Addressing the issue of emergency electricity procurement from Karpowership, Ramokgopa emphasised that the contract would be short-term, spanning three to five years. This is a marked departure from Mantashe’s earlier assertion of a 20-year time frame to cut down power procurement costs. Yet, Ramokgopa indicated the government’s openness to renegotiating and expediting this procurement process, subject to affordability.
Clarifying the Role of Electricity Minister
Following persistent confusion over his role and responsibilities, Ramokgopa underlined his role in procuring new generation capacity, ensuring a secure electricity supply, and devising transmission extension plans to meet future electricity demand. As for the redistribution of powers from Mantashe to him, Ramokgopa maintained that such a question would be better addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
As the Electricity Minister, Ramokgopa is not only tasked with turning the tide on the ongoing power crisis but also spearheading efforts to secure a reliable energy future for South Africa. Whether his promise of reprieve from Stage 6 load shedding becomes a reality remains to be seen. However, the government’s renewed commitment to alleviating the power crisis is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.