President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night said while load shedding was unlikely to end any time soon, it should be done in a way that caused the least disruption to businesses and households.
His State of the Nation Address (Sona), the president acknowledged the impact of power cuts on the country’s economy and its citizens.
“The load shedding of the last few months has had a debilitating effect on our country. It has severely set back our efforts to rebuild the economy and to create jobs.”
Ramaphosa said while Eskom worked to get its power plants in order, the government would take a number of steps to secure energy from outside of Eskom to ease pressure on the grid.
He said the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 would be given effect soon, which would allow for extra grid capacity from renewable energy and other sources, including battery storage and coal.
“We will initiate the procurement of emergency power from projects that can deliver electricity into the grid within three to 12 months from approval,” Ramaphosa said.
A new bid window would be opened for renewable energy Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and work on completing projects from the last round would be accelerated, while additional capacity would be bought from existing wind and solar plants.
“We will also put in place measures to enable municipalities in good financial standing to procure their own power from independent power producers,” he said.
Ramaphosa did not go into details about dealing with Eskom’s debt, saying that workers’ pensions should not be put at risk nor should the integrity of the country’s financial system be compromised.
SAWEA ON ACCELERATION OF IPPS
Meanwhile, the South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea) weighed in on the big announcement, saying it lacked detail and specific timelines.
The IPPs project had been years in the making with many promises and processes from government, but little by way of action.
Ramaphosa promised to galvanise government with a Section 34 Ministerial Determination, which would open the way for IPPs to sell the power they produce – and with the market opened, players in the renewable energy sector would be able to fill the gaps for Eskom.
But Sawea CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli was cautious about the announcement, saying there were many false starts in this process.
“We are going to continue to follow-up with government to make sure that these actions that have been outlined in the Sona are actually being followed up,” Ntuli said.
Opposition parties reacted similarly with the Inkatha Freedom Party and the United Democratic Movement welcoming the movement, but cautiously.
The Democratic Alliance (DA)’s energy spokesperson Kevin Mileham said the time for talk was over and he wanted to see action.
“We need to see the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy open up bid window five for renewable energy. We need to see his signature on the Section 34 Ministerial Determination and action being taken to allow municipalities to purchase electricity directly from IPPs,” he said.
Ramaphosa said these steps were being taken to rapidly increase power generation capacity outside of Eskom.