By Michael Currin
Over the past months or so, South Africa has been experiencing intermittent load shedding, which inconveniences households and businesses and has an adverse impact on the economy of our country.
We acknowledge that, among other debilitating disadvantages, load shedding retards economic growth and impedes socio-economic development.
Amid the blackouts, the government is doing everything possible in its endeavour to find a lasting solution to the electricity crisis. To capacitate the power utility Eskom to deal effectively and efficiently with load shedding and ensure energy security in the country, Cabinet approved the appointment of new board members with the required broad experience, expertise and skills. They are expected to provide stability and strategic direction to the entity, and reposition it into a key player in the energy sector.
As part of the broad interventions to curb load shedding, Eskom recently launched three programmes to procure much-needed power for the national grid.
These are expected to supply at least 1 000 megawatts (MW) that would significantly contribute to ending load shedding in the longer-term.
Eskom is already importing about 200 MW electricity from some of our neighbouring countries through the Southern African Power Pool to augment its generation capacity when the grid is constrained. In addition to implementing far-reaching measures to improve the performance of its power plants, critical maintenance work is also being undertaken to improve their reliability.
While these interventions fervently seek to stabilise the national grid, we should remember that they are not a quick-fix solution to the electricity shortfall. The eventual end to load shedding will not happen overnight. Our longer-term energy security is being addressed in a number of ways.
South Africa is on the threshold of making major headway in preparing the groundwork for our transition to clean energy sources. We are on track to have more than 6 725 MW of renewable energy from various sources, such as onshore wind, photovoltaic, concentrated solar power, landfill gas, biomass, small hydro and biogas.
The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) is key to a sustainable energy future in South Africa. The programme is part of the energy mix, as outlined in the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 and the Integrated Resource Plan, the latter which envisions that about 42% of the electricity generated in the country should come from renewable resources.
A number of solar projects are underway, including the 100 MW Redstone Concentrated Solar Power Tower project in the Northern Cape, which is anticipated to start operating in early 2024. Once operational, it is expected to power an average of 100 000 households per year.
By mid-October 2022, the Redstone Concentrated Solar Power Tower project had created a total of 972 jobs, with an additional 1 500 jobs expected in the near future. About 100 permanent jobs will also be created during the operation and maintenance phase, while 37% of business will be procured locally during construction.
Our investment in renewable energy forms part of our measured and just transition that will allow us to move to a more climate-friendly economy while protecting livelihoods and economic sectors.
These new sectors will not only power our future energy generation but will also lead to the development of new sectors, such as electric vehicles and green hydrogen.
As part of our vision to pursue a greener and more sustainable energy supply that will fundamentally change the country’s energy future, we are on track to procure an additional 2600 MW of new generation capacity from wind and solar photovoltaic projects from Bid Window 5 of the REIPPPP. An additional 5200 MW is planned to be added to the grid under Bid Window 6. Each new project moves us closer to a green-energy future and, ultimately, an energy-secure future.
Michael Currin is the Deputy Director-General at GCIS.