Energy manifestos: Comparing what ANC, EFF, DA have in mind to end load shedding

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Mayihlome Rally manifesto launch in Moses Mabhida stadium. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya / Independent Newspapers

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Mayihlome Rally manifesto launch in Moses Mabhida stadium. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 28, 2024


WE ARE IN in an election manifesto season with elections being held on May 29. In focus are political parties’ energy plans: the good, the bad and the ugly.

In this column, I will examine the ANC’s, EFF’s and DA’s manifestos.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his speech at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in KwaZulu-Natal during the ANC’s launch of its 2024 election manifesto, spoke on the energy commitments to South Africans.

The ANC’s energy focus:

  • Prioritise investment in expanding the transmission grid so that more energy, including from renewable sources, can be supplied.
  • Install solar water geysers in working-class and poor households to support job creation and local manufacturing.
  • Develop gas, nuclear and hydro-power projects for increased energy generation.
  • Support infrastructure roll-out through front-loading, insourcing, building state capacity and public-private partnerships.
  • Restore domestic refinery capacity to ensure security of supply and establish a National Oil Company for petroleum refinery and petrochemical industrialisation.
  • Mobilise investments in freight rail infrastructure to enhance logistics and shift goods from road to rail.
  • Modernise commuter rail for efficient and green public transport.

The section relating to energy on the manifesto touched on key areas, but gave no commitment towards the continuing use and beneficiation of coal. South Africa's economy is coal reliant and coal based.

The points highlighted are vague and non-specific – difficult sell to the public and the voters. This as the load-shedding crisis suffered by South Africa over the past five years will be the main deciding factor for this year's elections. People are going to vote on whether they have electricity or not as it has a major impact on their living standards and finances.

The “new normal” of load shedding has left South Africans frustrated and fed up in the face of a failed social pact and the collapse of the economy during the past five years as a direct result.

Ramaphosa’s glib promise this month to end load shedding in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) did not go down well with the nation. It was seen as a joke as it is not the first time he has made that promise.

And it is the power crisis that will be the deciding factor of who wins the election and if the ANC is going to be the majority ruling party or if the ANC will be reduced to a minority party ruling in a coalition. That decision will be made by the voters.

South Africans want a real lasting solution to ending load shedding, not some pie in the sky statement that is so out of touch it becomes a meme on social media.

The manifest also fails to address current energy woes.

The only long-term lasting solution is for Eskom to fix and prioritise its coal fleet power stations before any other alternatives can be considered.

South Africa’s load-shedding crisis has historical roots in:

The failure of the government in providing adequate budgets:

  • Prioritising funding resources as well as maintaining and fixing power plants.
  • Providing Eskom with the proper leadership over the past five years.

South Africans remember 2015 with almost 84 days' worth of load shedding and the relief when it ended with the application of operational strategies and efficient management processes. And Eskom was performing at a higher Energy Availability Factor than currently at that time.

When one compares the ANC manifesto against the EFF manifesto. You do notice stark differences in the two manifestos.

The EFF laid out a clear path to ending load shedding within six months.

EFF Manifesto on Energy: Summary

  1. Esure the security of electricity supply for at least the next 20 years, emulating successful models like that of China, to foster national sovereignty and sustainable economic growth.
  2. Invest in repairing the existing fleet of power generation and adopt clean coal technologies to enhance the energy availability factor.
  3. Reduce the electricity demand of major electricity users, implementing strategies that are economically viable and sustainable, including revoking preferential tariff deals that offer below-cost electricity to certain corporations.
  4. Subsidise embedded electricity alternatives for public institutions such as public health facilities, schools and police stations and households to encourage the adoption of sustainable energy solutions.
  5. Significantly invest in the transmission capacity to support the increased demand and integration of diverse energy sources.
  6. Prioritise the affordability of electricity, ensuring that energy costs contribute to sustainable economic development and do not hinder it. The implementation of solutions will take affordability into account.
  7. Commit to decarbonising the electricity sector, advancing at a pace, scale, and cost that is feasible and beneficial for South Africa.
  8. Terminate all existing contracts with independent power producers.
  9. Aim for controlled participation of 30 – 40% in new generation capacity through a new transparent and corrupt-free procurement process that supports the ownership transfer to the majority of black people.
  10. Establish a state-owned mining company to manage coal mines owned by Eskom, ensuring a quality coal supply at affordable prices. This company will also export surplus coal, prioritising African countries to support their electrification and industrialisation.
  11. Leverage 200 years of coal reserves, implementing carbon-capturing technology, and nuclear energy as the dependable energy for base load to ensure security of energy supply.
  12. Expand Eskom’s generation capacity for consistent, dependable, and affordable electricity distribution to all users in South Africa.
  13. End the privatisation of Eskom, and consolidate generation, transmission, and distribution as one company.
  14. Stabilise energy supply by maximally pursuing a mix of energy sources, including clean coal, gas, nuclear and nuclear energy as base load, and renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydro-energy.
  15. Direct Eskom to develop an internal substantial renewable energy division to build its own infrastructure, focusing on solar, wind, and hydro-energy, and researching to improve their reliability.
  16. Provide free electricity up to 200kWh per month to poor households, ensuring universal electricity access for all households.
  17. Implement a subsidy programme for embedded electricity alternatives to support households and public institutions such as hospitals, clinics, police stations, and schools.
  18. Establish a direct grant system to encourage the adoption of embedded generation technologies, moving beyond mere tax incentives.
  19. Oversee regulated submissions from credible electricity generators, ensuring reliability and quality in the energy sector.
  20. Authorise Eskom to take over the distribution of electricity from municipalities that are unable to manage their Eskom-related financial obligations.
  21. Establish an independent state electricity economic research institute to conduct research on energy security and support long-term energy infrastructure planning, with its findings being reported to Parliament.
  22. Commit funding to the re-establishment of Eskom’s research and development capacity, with dedicated focus on training especially in nuclear and coal as core base load.
  23. Eliminate all historical electricity debts, including municipal debts owed to Eskom.
  24. Eradicate all illegal electricity connections and launch a comprehensive electricity safety campaign.
  25. Offer solutions, research and infrastructure, and commit resources to the electrification of neighbouring countries fostering regional co-operation and energy security.
  26. Invest in the electrification of the entire African continent and will immediately start with the electrification of the neighbouring countries.
  27. Promote off-grid household and institutional energy solutions, such as embedded generation, to diversify energy sources and increase resilience.
  28. Introduce a municipal conditional grant aimed at assisting municipalities in implementing hybrid and off-grid energy solutions where they are practical and necessary. This initiative is designed to promote local energy resilience and sustainability, in areas where traditional grid connectivity is challenging or inefficient.
  29. Cancel all indexed fixed-priced and cost-plus contracts related to coal mining and coal supply to Eskom.
  30. Compile and publicly release a comprehensive register of all assets belonging to coal mines, including coal reserves.
  31. Build and improve rail infrastructure around power plants and coal mines to enhance accessibility and efficiency.
  32. Develop industrial and manufacturing capacity for embedded generation and off-grid solutions, encouraging innovation and self-sufficiency.
  33. Forge global co-operation, with the Russian Federation, to establish a nuclear power plant under a sensible power purchase agreement.
  34. Commit to the completion of the Inga-Dam Hydro Electric Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a long-term continental solution in partnership with other countries in the region, promoting transparency.
  35. Engage with strategic partners to build a nuclear power plant in South Africa through a transparent procurement process. This facility is planned to produce between 3 000 and 6 000 megawatts of electricity, under a 20-year Build-Operate-Transfer contract. This initiative will not only augment South Africa's electricity generation capacity but also symbolise a significant step towards energy independence and sustainable development.
  36. Seek to purchase electricity surpluses from neighbouring countries, particularly Mozambique, as a medium to short-term solution.
  37. Enhance technical capacity by collaborating with China and other friendly nations to repair and restore coal power stations.

The ANC has only four points in their manifesto on energy with scanty detail. Whereas the EFF has prepared 37 points with detailed information on what their plans are to end load shedding.

Starting with a definite time line which is outlined in their manifesto.

In summary, the EFF Manifesto was more detailed, focused and touched on multiple aspects of the energy crisis while providing a practical approach on how to end load shedding. And to build a longer lasting energy generation capacity for South Africa.

The EFF manifesto section on energy makes the ANC energy section of their manifesto look like a joke.

DA energy manifesto:

The DA manifesto focus on energy – just on the opening statement – missed the opportunity to identify with South Africa’s energy crisis and dilemma.

Instead, it chose to rattle off in a non-coherent blame game of Eskom infrastructure as being old and outdated, which is a blatant misinformation. Power stations by design are built to last over generations.

And according to engineering specifications, if proper maintenance is carried out on a power station, every seven to 15 years a well-maintained power station technically gets overhauled during that operational life cycle.

So it doesn't inspire confidence to see a political party, which is appealing to a majority black South Africans, in the same tone pushing a totally disconnected white European, Eurocentric approach to power and energy.

The DA’s energy manifesto starts off by painting a problem statement picture of the South African energy landscape.

And immediately it jumps to promoting a private sector-led solution by Independent Power Producer (IPPs) to the country’s energy crisis.

So according to the DA, breaking up and privatising Eskom is their best idea and giving private suppliers the monopoly towards electricity generation. An absolute recipe for disaster!

There is not a single IPP that can match Eskom’s generation capacity, let alone replace Eskom in the next five- to 10-year horizon. So the proposal is a hope for a miracle devoid of science.

The DA proposes unbundling of Eskom, and restructuring Eskom and to establish an open electricity market for trading of electricity, and unbundling by establishing a separate national grid operator company. This is a cut-and-paste from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund book of hymns on structural reforms strategies.

Looking at the current strategies and policy proposals pursued by the ANC in the Energy Action Plan, one can see the direct policy link of the ANC’s Energy Action Plan in the DA’s energy manifesto.

So it means that the ANC is currently implementing a DA-led plan under the auspices of the Energy Action Plan. That’s exactly what the DA spelled out in their energy manifesto plan.

If one compares the DA energy manifesto with the ANC’s Energy Action Plan, you will find that the DA is actually leading the ANC in the arena of energy policy priority planning.

The ANC is using the DA energy plan and just nicely named it the Energy Action Plan. So there is no difference between the ANC and the DA energy manifesto plans.

Their focus is on driving unbundling and privatisation of Eskom and giving away Eskom power generation and grid capacity to the private sector.

Three different approaches; your choice:

For the sake of clarity, I am not choosing nor promoting political parties, as that is not my intention. I am comparing three different views on how to solve the power crisis that faces South Africa with the intent in this column, to be unbiased.

As the election seasons have officially kicked. The decision now rests with the voters to decide as to who will win the May 2024 elections.

However, this will only happen If the upcoming elections are free and fair, and the election results are not going to be rigged and tempered with to give a determined outcome – a concern that is rising in the social discourse of South Africa.

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is president of Transform RSA and an independent energy expert.

* The views in this column are independent of Business Report and Independent Media.