Cape Town - Providing uninterrupted electricity supply to the country’s 137 hospitals would cost the state R10 billion when securing alternative energy.
This is according to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa who said Eskom currently exempted or partially exempted 25 public health establishments within its area of supply.
He disclosed these details when responding to IFP chief whip Narend Singh’s parliamentary questions about the immediate steps being taken to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply to critical services such as water and sanitation pump stations, hospitals and other essential services.
Singh also wanted to know whether there was a plan to establish separate reticulation lines, dedicated transformers and substations for essential service providers as currently many essential services shared the same grid with surrounding residential areas, leading to some areas not experiencing load shedding for months while others faced additional load shedding.
Ramokgopa said Eskom was engaging the departments of Health and Water and Sanitation regarding their points of supply in the power utility’s supply area identified as critical.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was ordered, within 60 days from May 5, to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply to all government hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations following an application by the UDM, Action SA, Bosa and other political and civic organisations.
Where this was not possible, the government was directed to make alternative arrangements to secure power for these institutions. However, Gordhan has since indicated their intention to challenge the judgment.
Ramokgopa said the Ministry of Electricity had developed costing scenarios for installing an embedded generation (solar installation) to address the impact of load shedding and mitigate the impact of high diesel costs on medical facilities – large and small hospitals.
“For small hospitals (400 kilowatt power load) based on a 4-hour outage period for battery storage, solar panel and inverters option, R13 million per hospital capital expenditure is required.
“For large hospitals (1MegaWatt power load) based on a 4-hour outage period for battery storage, solar panel and inverters option, R59m per hospital capital expenditure is required.
“Based on the Department of Health’s figures, to cover 137 hospitals (varying between small and large), R10.1bn capital expenditure would be required to provide a combined solar, battery and inverter solution,” he said.
He also said diesel generators would cost R89.1m in capital costs for the same 137 small hospitals, while large hospitals would cost R411m.
He said a rapid deployment of embedded generation or “micro-grid” solutions, including roof-top solar for hospitals, other critical installations, and economic hubs, would be possible through an aggregated power purchase agreement. He said his ministry would issue a request for information before the end of July 2023 and outline a fast-track procurement process to secure independent power producers for micro gridding.
Where a facility was deeply embedded in the network, partial exemption at lower stages of load shedding had been granted, he said.
“Eskom has concluded a preliminary assessment of establishing dedicated feeders for certain hospitals. This assessment has been shared with the Department of Health, and discussions on implementation are ongoing.”
He also said a similar approach would be followed for other critical infrastructure.
“The implementation time is envisaged to take between 12 to 24 months, after the investment decision, depending on the type of solution and other factors such as environmental approvals and land acquisition.”
Gordhan recently said the application to appeal against the exception judgment suspended the operation and execution of the High Court judgment pending the outcome of the current application.
Gordhan also said Eskom continued its endeavours to provide whatever relief was possible, given the design of the grid that the hospital or essential service was connected to.
He said his department did not consider itself liable for jeopardising the health rights of patients in public hospitals as load shedding was a protective measure implemented by Eskom to avoid the possibility of a grid collapse.
“The costs of opposing the North Gauteng High Court order are minimal compared to the consequences of a grid collapse. If the grid system was left unprotected it would lead to disastrous consequences for the whole country, including patients in hospitals.”