Electricity Minister will allow government to work with increased urgency

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a Minister of Electricity will go a long way to ensuring that the current energy crisis gripping the country is resolved.

The Minister was speaking during the debate on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Cape Town City Hall on Tuesday morning.

Mantashe said the President’s announcement of a State of Disaster and a Minister of Electricity shows the seriousness with which government is approaching the energy deficit.

“We characterise [the announcement of a Minister of Electricity]…as a project management approach in dealing with the crisis. Some people in the media say, when we characterise it as project management, we are reducing this Ministry and its authority.

“This is not reductionist. It is communicating a sense of urgency and the desire to resolve this because we don’t have time to wait for 24 months to resolve load shedding. That is how serious the President takes this crisis.

“It is emphasising urgency of execution and delivery of the project. One…there will be clear timeframes, clear milestones and there will be a clear, critical path which we must not deviate from,” Mantashe said.

The Minister emphasised that the energy crisis is solvable, with government already moving to ensure that much-needed extra megawatts of energy are added to the grid.

These efforts include:

  • Improving Eskom’s energy availability factor [EAF] through maintenance to enable coal-fired power stations to perform optimally
  • Procuring emergency power from neighbouring countries – a move which is expected to see an additional 1000MW added to the grid
  • Procuring emergency power from private electricity producers
  • Improving the skills capacity at Eskom

Added to these efforts, the Minister said, government continues to develop capacity which is expected to secure energy in the long term.

“We must be reminded that 2205MW of renewable energy was procured under Bid Window 4 of which 2130MW are connected to the grid and providing us with much needed electricity. 2583MW have been procured under Bid Window 5 of which 1759 MW are under construction.

“Under BW 6, we procured 4200MW of which 1000MW could be declared because of [grid transmission constraints]. As we deal with the problem of the coal generators, we must equally urgently deal with strengthening of the transmission,” he said.

Added to this, the department is expected to issue Requests for Proposals in relation to:

  • 513MW of battery storage by the end of February 2023
  • 3000MW of gas to power by the end of the current financial year
  • Bid Window 7 of up to 5000 MW subject to grid capacity availability

Mining in South Africa

Meanwhile, the Minister said South African mining’s targeted contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of some 12% has been missed, only achieving 8% due to a range of factors.

“This low performance is largely attributed to the global increase in energy prices because of the continued geopolitical dynamics, the ongoing power disruptions which is load shedding, logistical bottlenecks on our rail network, port systems and crime. As a result, mineral production contracted by 9% year-on-year in November 2022.

“We welcome the establishment of the joint structures between Transnet and the Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) to accelerate the improvement of our rail and port infrastructure. Those bottlenecks deprive South Africa of taking advantage of good prices of commodities…therefore it is important for us to attend to these problems,” he said.

Mantashe revealed that government will work with those investors who showed an interest in exploration during the Investing in African Mining Indaba held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last week to ensure realisation.

“Furthermore, there is an interest in the minerals of the future which include lithium…rare earth minerals, copper, nickel, and many others. These minerals which our country is endowed with are essential for the development of a low carbon economy that we are looking forward to.

“The DMRE is also seized with addressing the backlog in prospecting and mining applications. In the last 18 months, we have reduced the backlog by 42% over the last 18 months. The procurement of a customised cadastral system is underway,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za