President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that negotiations for Eskom to import surplus electricity from Botswana have begun in earnest as the energy crisis worsens in South Africa.
This comes after Ramaphosa announced last week that Eskom would import power from these countries through the Southern African Power Pool arrangement as one of the measures to plug the 6 000MW electricity shortage on the grid over the next three months.
Ramaphosa said yesterday that the Botswana government had also shown a willingness to sell excess electricity to South Africa in a bid to strengthen economic and trade ties.
Ramaphosa was speaking during a media briefing at the conclusion of the South Africa -Botswana Business Roundtable in Gaborone.
The two-day event was held in celebration and commemoration of 28 years of bilateral economic relations between the two countries.
“Our quest as South Africa to address our own energy challenges… would be seeking to increase the capacity of our energy by also importing energy from our sister neighbouring countries who have moved up the ladder in terms of having a measure of surplus energy which we would like to tap into, so those discussions have started and we want to proceed with them,” Ramaphosa said.
“They are obviously being driven by Eskom in our own country. So Eskom... is now going to be working on the implementation of that whole package of interventions, and obviously we will be playing an oversight role.
“We are hoping that through various negotiations, we will be able to tap into energy sources from Botswana as well where there is a measure of surplus energy that they can sell to us.”
The importing of electricity by South Africa from Botswana crystallises the worsening of the 14-year-long energy crisis as Botswana used to meet its additional demand through electricity imports, primarily from South Africa.
South Africa is Botswana’s number one source of imports, which amounted R64.4 billion in 2021, while Botswana ranked as South Africa’s seventh largest export market.
Eskom has welcomed Ramaphosa’s further reforms, saying they will go a long way towards easing the power generation constraints and accelerate the end of load shedding.
Eskom yesterday ramped up its rotational power cuts during the evening peak from Stage 2 to Stage 4 owing to a shortage of generation capacity, coupled with the higher demand due to the colder weather.
The struggling state-owned power utility had 2 931MW on planned maintenance, while another 15 040MW of capacity was unavailable due to breakdowns.
In a statement last week, Eskom said any agreement with neighbouring countries’ power utilities would be subject to approval by South Africa’s energy department and the energy regulator.
“The commercial price and quantum are still the subject of negotiations,” it said.
Data from Statistics South Africa yesterday showed that electricity production contracted by a further 4 percent in June from a year ago, while consumption only eased by 1.1 percent over the same period.
Load shedding was ramped up during the month, reaching Stage 6 at times largely in response to the industrial action at several power plants, which weighed on the already fragile electricity situation.
Investec economist Lara Hodes said Eskom’s ageing power plants, which are prone to breakdowns, continued to add to the country’s precarious energy predicament.
“South Africa’s economic growth potential has been meaningfully hindered by electricity supply disruptions.
“It continues to cloud sentiment, reduce the country’s competitive position and accordingly deter investment.”