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Energy crisis not unique to South Africa: government



Minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele has moved to assure South Africans that the government is now doing something about the country’s 15-year-long energy crisis, saying that the “energy action plan” announced in 2022 is being implemented in earnest.

The plan, first laid out by President Cyril Ramaphosa in early 2022, has the long-term goal of securing a continuous, credible energy supply for the country, he said.

The government was pushed into crisis mode in 2022 when power utility Eskom was forced to implement stage 6 load shedding, coming up with a plan of action to reduce restrictions on energy policy and to try and secure more power for the country.

Load shedding has been a feature in South Africa since 2007, and the government has failed to remedy the situation over the last 15 years, despite many promises to do so.

Load shedding has got progressively worse, with 2022 being the worst year on record, and 2023 starting out with non-stop, high-stage load shedding every single day so far.

Gungubele said that “there is no immediate panacea to this crisis.”

However, he assured South Africans that work is underway to “ensure full and effective implementation of the Energy Action Plan”.

“Like the Covid-19 pandemic, the current energy crisis raises the necessity for a societal response. All parts of society need to pull together and play their respective roles if we are to overcome the electricity crisis.”

Despite sitting with load shedding and a worsening electricity crisis for 15 years, Gungubele said that the current state of affairs is not unique to South Africa.

“The energy crisis we are facing is not unique to South Africa. There is currently a global energy crisis, and therefore we must work together to address the crisis,” he said.

In terms of what the government is actually doing, Gungubele highlighted the following:

  • The relaxation of some requirements which will enable quicker procurement and the removal of licensing requirements for generation projects to enable private investment;
  • As part of rebuilding technical capacity in Eskom, 18 skilled specialists have been brought back into the utility, including three former power station managers who will assist at Kendal, Koeberg and Medupi;
  • There have been collaborative efforts with external stakeholders who have displayed a willingness to assist Eskom;
  • Additional focus is being placed on prioritising maintenance at the top six stations (Duvha, Kendal, Kusile, Majuba, Matla and Tutuka). These stations were specifically selected as they are amongst the highest contributors to unplanned load losses;
  • There is a process underway to establish a ‘One Stop Shop’, which will be a single entry point for energy projects through Invest SA. A business case has been developed outlining resource and operational requirements;
  • Timeframes have been significantly reduced for regulatory approvals in the areas of land-use authorisation, registration process, and embedded generation projects.

“These examples of interventions that are underway demonstrate the urgency that is being put into fixing the energy challenges. These cannot be implemented overnight,” he said.

The minister said that other work is being done to enable the construction of “substantial” new generating capacity.

“Some of this power will be bought by Eskom through the renewable energy programme, which has been expanded and accelerated,” he said.

“In the last six months, agreements have been signed with independent power producers for 26 projects, which together will generate around 2,800 MW. Another major source of new generating capacity will be solar panels on the roofs of houses and businesses.

“Work will soon be completed on a pricing structure that will allow customers to sell surplus electricity from rooftop solar panels into the grid. That way, they can meet their own power needs and help increase the amount of electricity on the grid.”

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