Government probes proposal to deal with energy crisis as State of Disaster

Thursday, February 2, 2023
Minister Mondli Gungubele.

With the ongoing load shedding, government is investigating whether the crisis fulfills the legal requirements for the declaration of a National State of Disaster.

Addressing members of the media on the deliberations of the Cabinet Lekgotla, which is underway in Pretoria, Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said government is investigating the call for the declaration of a State of Disaster.

“I have asked my team to analyse the impact of the State of Disaster. We hope to, in a short space of time, give a report [on the findings of the investigation into the State of Disaster] and what government does with that is not in my hands,” Gungubele said on Thursday.

When the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic in 2020, government declared a National State of Disaster, which empowered it to take measures that prevented many more people from becoming severely ill and saved countless lives.

“There is a strong desire in government to find ways of ending load shedding as quickly as possible. There are a lot of interventions [that government is implementing to address the energy challenge]... We are fast tracking emergency power, the issue of skills and upping the ante in terms of maintaining the plants.

“Those are issues that are within our hands. Of course there is a call… that a State of Disaster declaration [would] help us jump other processes, which sometimes do not respond to the situation.

“There is a legal base [that needs to be fulfilled], investigations are being done. I hope we will be advised as quickly as possible in a manner that is consistent with the crisis that we are confronted with,” Gungubele said.

The Minister assured citizens that work is underway to improve the performance of power stations to reduce stages of load shedding, while driving work to bring more capacity onto the grid as quickly as possible.

There is a clear plan, announced by President Ramaphosa in July 2022, to ease load shedding and then to end it. The plan was developed through extensive consultation and endorsed by energy experts as providing the best and fastest path towards energy security.

Since the adoption of the Energy Action Plan, progress has been made in several areas, including:

  • The licensing requirement for embedded generation projects has been removed. Since SA first raised the licensing threshold to 100 MW, the pipeline of private sector projects has grown to more than 100 projects, with over 9 000 MW of capacity. The first of these projects is expected to connect to the grid by the end of this year.
  • Agreements have been signed with independent power producers for 26 renewable energy projects, which together will generate around 2 800 MW. Construction on these projects will soon start.
  • An additional 300 MW has been imported through the Southern African Power Pool, and negotiations are underway to secure a potential 1 000 MW from neighbouring countries.
  • Eskom has also launched a programme to purchase up to 1 000 MW of power from companies with existing generation capacity for a period of three years.
  • Government has cut red tape and streamlined regulatory processes, reducing the timeframes for environmental authorisations, registration of new projects and grid connection approvals.
  • Government has established a team of independent experts to work closely with Eskom to diagnose the problems at poorly performing power stations and take action to improve plant performance. Six power stations have been identified for particular focus over the coming months in order to recover additional capacity.

Assessing government’s performance

President Cyril Ramaphosa has convened government leaders at the Cabinet Lekgotla to deliberate government’s priorities for the year ahead. The meeting is being attended by the leadership structures representing all spheres of government.

They included Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, Directors-General and leadership of the South African Local Government Association. 

The outcome of the meeting will chart a way forward for the year to be announced by the President during the State of the Nation Address (SONA), taking place on 9 February 2023.

Gungubele informed media that discussions would be on energy, interest rates, crime, poverty, unemployment (especially youth joblessness) and inequality.

“This Lekgotla is going to spend a lot of time analysing our performance and answering the question, 'What are the key programmes that can make a different in a short space of time during the course of this year?'

“In other words, how is the infrastructure performing? Where are the gaps and how do we correct that? [Discussions will also include] the state of service delivery, as there is a huge challenge in this area.

“There are a number of people who don’t have access to water and access to ablution services -- all the dignity services that are mainly delivered by local government,” the Minister said.

The meeting will also tackle government’s fiscal goals and keeping the commitments it has made in this regard.

“We need to find a balance between a fiscal deficit and the debts that must be paid out. There is a challenge about the fiscal deficit, that it must be kept within a particular level and at the same time, we must have money available to contribute to service delivery, infrastructure and all other growth enhancing interventions,” the Minister said. –