Resolving energy challenges ’fundamental’ for economic recovery, says Ramaphosa
CAPE TOWN - Solving the energy challenges in South Africa and power utility, Eskom’s ability to produce enough electricity to meet the demand is fundamental for the country’s economic recovery, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.
“Resolving our energy challenges isn’t just urgent; it is fundamental to South Africa’s economic recovery,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter.
“That is why we are making every effort to bring new power generation capacity online in the shortest possible time.”
Power utility Eskom said it was forced to resume rotational powercuts on March 10, due to its generation capacity being severely constrained.
At the time, Eskom said continued poor performance at its Kusile, Duvha and Tutuka power stations, and delays in returning some other units to service and breakdowns over the last week had caused the need to implement this loadshedding.
The utility supplies the bulk of South Africa’s electricity, but has struggled to meet demand over the last decade, mainly as a result of its generating units frequently breaking down after years of poor maintenance.
On Monday, Ramaphosa said for more than a decade the electricity shortage has been a problem and that economic activity has been severely interrupted every time there is a power cut.
He said the interruptions affected smaller businesses and large industries.
“Over the years, it has contributed to slow economic growth and weak investor confidence.”
Ramaphosa said that a step forward was the announcement by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, of companies that had successfully bid to supply 2,000 megawatts of emergency power to address the capacity gap.
“The power will be produced from a range of sources including solar, wind, liquefied natural gas and battery storage. These projects will involve an investment of around R45 billion by the private sector,” Ramaphosa said.
“Around half of all the materials used in the construction will be locally sourced. The projects should be providing power to the nation by August next year.”
Ramaphosa said that government last week released a request for proposals for the procurement of a further 2,600 megawatts of renewable energy.
This would be the fifth ‘bid window’ to buy renewable energy from independent power producers in a programme that has led to “significant private investment in the country’s energy infrastructure”, he said.
Ramaphosa said the South African government planned to over the course of the next year release four more requests for proposals for new power generation projects – in renewable energy, gas, coal and battery storage respectively.
“These projects would be expected to provide over 7,000 megawatts of electricity. These new sources of electricity are vital to ensure a reliable supply of energy into the future,” he said.
Most of Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power stations are more 40-year-old and are prone to breakdowns. The power utility also has one nuclear-powered power station and nine smaller stations that run on a combination of diesel, pumped storage and hydroelectricity.
“In addition, much of the necessary maintenance on these plants was neglected for many years. Eskom estimates that breakdowns consume as much as a fifth of our electricity capacity,” he said.
“That is why, as we build this new generation capacity, Eskom is working to ensure that it undertakes the planned maintenance of its plants,” Ramaphosa said.
“While this may mean load shedding in the immediate term, better maintenance will lead to improved plant performance in the medium term and to greater stability in supply.”
Ramaphosa said that Eskom is steadily being restored to technical, operational and financial viability – this while the country’s electricity system was being made more efficient and competitive.
African News Agency (ANA)