Ramokgopa tells business gas is the solution

Minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Picture: GCIS

Minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Picture: GCIS

Published Feb 21, 2024


Major businesses in KwaZulu-Natal told Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa during a stakeholder engagement held in Durban on Tuesday that the load shedding crisis was increasingly affecting their ability to operate.

Ramokgopa in turn said the government was working on a plan to convert coal-fired power plants into gas plants to alleviate the crisis, but this would take between 12 to 18 months, while other short-term interventions were being put in place.

“One of the biggest constraints on the economy is load shedding, the inability of the State to provide a quality and uninterrupted supply to the citizens and also to the industry and investors in this country.

“You must pull back on production, capacity utilisation and productivity goes down and there is a great amount of standing time and workers lose their incomes,” Ramokgopa said.

He used the example of Toyota –one of the largest employers in the province – and said when businesses experienced down-time, there was reduced production capacity and workers faced reduced hours.

“Toyota’s investment is under threat if we do not resolve the energy problems... jobs are threatened and the revenue base of eThekwini is under threat without a stable electricity supply but also we must ensure roads and reticulation of water infrastructure is efficient.”

Toyota’s plant in Durban lost production of 3 500 vehicles in the first three months of last year due to power outages and dips in the electricity current supplied to them from the grid.

Ramokgopa said while auto manufacturers are exempt from load shedding, the manufacturers of parts and components were still affected.

He said spending R110 million on diesel per day to run power plants was unsustainable and plans were afoot to convert plants that use diesel to gas, although this was not a short-term solution.

“There is huge potential for a gas plant at the SEZ (special economic zone) in Richards Bay and we are in discussions with the premier to get this off the ground and running so we can extract 5000MW that we can add to the grid. We are repurposing power stations that rely on diesel to go to gas,” Ramokgopa said.

Sam Maphumulo, the sustainability officer at the South African Sugar Association, told Ramokgopa that the private sector was not being involved enough in the discussion around renewable energy.

“There is a missed opportunity to include biomass, such as sugarcane, into the energy mix in this region. We must look at co-generation,” she said.

Brian Mpono, CEO of the Oceans uMhlanga Development, urged Ramokgopa to include smaller businesses into the discussion on renewable and alternative energy.

“It is important that the message on how the issue is being resolved is filtered down to small business owners in the townships and communities.

They are very critical stakeholders in the value chain and if we are to fix the problem, we need to involve them,” Mpono said.

He said all businesses, regardless of how small they are, must be included as part of the solution “so they can contribute by going to gas and solar”.

The Mercury