Adding to Eskom capacity a matter of "extreme urgency" for government - Ramaphosa

Monday, January 23, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved to assure South Africans that government is using every means and resource at its disposal to get more capacity onto Eskom’s grid “as a matter of extreme urgency” with the Energy Action Plan at the core.

The President was addressing the nation through his weekly newsletter after South Africans have been experiencing a sustained period of the higher stages of load shedding.

President Ramaphosa said government is taking action to address the myriad of challenges Eskom is facing, with particular focus on improving the performance of Eskom’s ailing coal fired power stations which serve at least 80% of South Africa’s energy needs.

“A team of independent experts is conducting a diagnosis of the problems at poorly performing power stations and taking action to improve plant performance. Six power stations have been identified for particular focus over the coming months to recover additional capacity.

“Eskom is also working to connect Kusile Unit 5 to the grid by September this year. Every urgent effort is being made to restore other units at Medupi, Kusile and Koeberg with significant capacity,” he said.

The President added that Eskom is also taking steps to procure some 1000MW of energy from neighbouring countries with the power utility also aiming to “buy surplus power from companies with available generation capacity for a period of three years”.

Furthermore, government has also signed procurement deals in Bid Windows 5 and 6 of the Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) which is expected to add some 2800MW of energy to the grid once completed in at least two years.

The President said government has allowed for private power producers to contribute to the strained grid.

“The licensing requirement for embedded generation projects has been removed. Since we first raised the licensing threshold to 100 MW, the pipeline of private sector projects has grown to more than 100 projects with over 9000 MW of capacity.

“We have cut red tape and streamlined regulatory processes, reducing the timeframes for environmental authorisations, registration of new projects and grid connection approvals,” he said.

President Ramaphosa announced that soon, those who have installed solar panels on the roofs of businesses and homes will also be allowed to sell their excess electricity to the grid with work already underway for a pricing structure.

Taking stock

Reflecting on the serious challenges facing Eskom, the President said “a combination of factors…years in the making” have led the power utility to where it currently is.

“Lack of investment in new generating capacity, poor power plant maintenance, corruption and criminality, sabotage of infrastructure, rising municipal debt and a lack of suitable skills at Eskom have all created a perfect storm. There can be no sustainable solution without addressing all these factors in combination.

“We should not make the mistakes of the past. For many years, critical maintenance was deferred, and our power stations were run too hard in order to keep the lights on. As a country we are now paying the price for these miscalculations,” he said.

President Ramaphosa acknowledged the destabilisation that load shedding has wrought on South Africans and businesses alike but called for patience as government implements solutions.

“As load shedding continues to wreak havoc on businesses, households and communities, the last thing South Africans want to hear are excuses or unrealistic promises. The demands for an immediate end to power cuts are wholly understandable. Everyone is fed up.

“We must be realistic about our challenges and about what it is going to take to fix them. While we all desperately want to, we cannot end load shedding overnight,” he said.

The President added that while measures are being implemented, collaboration from all quarters of society will ensure that the Energy Action Plan bears fruit.

“While we cannot end load shedding immediately, what is certain is that if we work together with urgency to implement the Energy Action Plan, load shedding will steadily become less and less severe.

“Through collective action, we will much sooner reach the point where we have enough power to end load shedding altogether,” President Ramaphosa concluded. – SAnews.gov.za

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