It’s not news that South Africa has been facing a power crisis, with frequent load shedding that affects citizens’ daily life. This time, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, announced that load shedding could be effectively addressed and reduced, and almost eliminated if the right things are put in place.
In an interview with Talk Radio 702’s Clement Manyathela, Mantashe explained some of the measures that could be taken to curb load shedding. These include:
- Re-looking at Karpowership
- Improving the energy availability factor of stations
- Importing energy from neighbouring countries.
Mantashe also spoke about the possibility of load shedding being eliminated by the end of the year if emergency power procurement, including Karpowership, is taken seriously.
Earlier this year, in an interview with eNCA, Mantashe had mentioned that load shedding could be controlled in six to 12 months. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana had made a similar statement at Davos, saying that it would take 12 to 18 months to declare “load shedding is a thing of the past”.
While Mantashe is optimistic that load shedding can be conquered, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has claimed otherwise, stating that ending load shedding soon is not technically feasible.
The heated debate of Karpowership
Karpowership was among the preferred bidders of the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme that launched in 2020. Its three projects at SA’s ports were set to provide the bulk or 1 220MW out of the 2 000MW to be procured through the emergency programme. However, the environmental authorisation had been denied, and there were concerns over the emergency deal with Karpowership having a 20-year lifespan.
Mantashe questioned the rejection of Karpowership, as their vessels have worked in other countries and have helped other countries with their energy needs. He also emphasized that the emergency procurement was not about generation but an immediate action to address current problems.
According to Mantashe, the negative consequences of a veto by environmentalists over development are being overlooked. The 20-year lifespan was deemed necessary to lower the cost of procuring power from the company.
Mantashe criticized Ramokgopa’s plans for private companies to take over some coal power stations and delay their decommissioning. He went on to say that it would be better for the state to keep its power stations and invest more in them. According to Mantashe, public perception of the state’s power stations is misleading, as private companies also invest in their assets, and the state should not hesitate to invest in theirs.
Renewables No Solution
Mantashe also stated that simply adding more renewable energy through the Renewable Independent Power Producer Program (REIPPP), which aims to bring additional megawatts to South Africa’s electricity system through private sector investment, would not solve load shedding.
He added that renewables have an intermittent character, and for solar, it works for the eight hours with sunlight, and it doesn’t work when there’s darkness, so producing 6 000 MW through solar, it means you must generate 18 000 MW. While Mantashe recognizes the need for battery storage and has put in place measures to achieve that, he stands firm on the belief that bid windows would not resolve load shedding.
It’s a complex problem, and South Africa has to consider all the available options to overcome it, but its citizens can optimistically hope that with a concerted effort from its leaders, the power crisis can be averted.