Minister of Electricity to focus solely on resolving load shedding

Thursday, February 16, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the proposed Minister of Electricity will assume “full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response” and will drive the action of the National Energy Crisis Committee to end load shedding “as a matter of urgency”.

The President was replying to the debate on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Cape Town, on Thursday.

Delivering the SONA last week, the President announced a new Minister of Electricity to be based in the Presidency.

“The reality is that the resolution of the energy crisis requires effective coordination across several departments and public entities. It requires the undivided attention of a political principal who does not need to split their time and energies among different important responsibilities.

“This appointment will ensure that there is a Minister who is ultimately responsible for resolving load shedding and who is able to work with all fellow Cabinet ministers, departments and entities to do so,” he said.

President Ramaphosa moved to dispel notions that the new minister will cause fragmentation in the light that the Minister of Public Enterprises takes charge of state power utility Eskom and that there is a Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.

He thrashed out the key responsibilities for each of the three ministers.

“The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy deals with matters of energy policy as well as mineral resources. Beyond the energy crisis that we face, the restructuring of government will be effected to enable entities that fall under various departments to be properly located in those departments.

“The Minister of Public Enterprises is executing the recommendations of Presidential Review Commission as well as the State Owned Enterprises Council in relation to the ownership and the governance of state owned enterprises. That function should be completed in time as we continue with the restructuring of government. The Minister … will therefore continue to work on the restructuring of Eskom as well as other state owned enterprises until then.

“The Minister of Electricity will be focused day in and day out only on addressing the load shedding crisis, working together with the management of Eskom and the board. The Minister will be leading the National Energy Crisis Committee and interacting with all other departments in the spirit of cooperative governance,” he said.

National State of Disaster

Turning focus to the National State of Disaster declared by government in relation to the energy crisis, President Ramaphosa reiterated that the move will allow government to accelerate the implementation of the Energy Action Plan announced last July and move with urgency to mitigate the social and economic effects of load shedding.

“As I said in the State of the Nation Address, we will ensure that environmental protections and technical standards are maintained, and that procurement is undertaken with transparency and proper oversight.

“We will use the state of disaster to get rid of unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles that stand in the way of urgently bringing new generation capacity onto the grid. We will use it to ensure continuity in the provision of critical services and supply chains, and to address the impact of load shedding on businesses and households,” he said.

Coal as an energy source

President Cyril Ramaphosa told MPs that the country will continue to use coal as a fuel source in the foreseeable future.

More than half of South Africa’s energy is derived from Eskom’s coal-fired power stations – rendering the country heavily reliant on the sedimentary rock as an energy source.

“As we build an electricity system that will meet our energy requirements into the future, we need to dispel some of the myths that have been circulating – and that have been repeated here – about the path we are taking.

“We need to dispel this idea that we are abandoning coal as a fuel source. We should all remember that coal fired power stations provide 80% of our energy source and will therefore continue to provide the bulk of our ‘base load’ supply into the future,” he said.

The President added, however, that South Africa is also committed to a “future energy mix” including renewable, nuclear, gas, hydro, storage, bio-mass energies.

President Ramaphosa also assured MPs that unbundling Eskom and creating a competitive energy production market is a move that will wholly benefit the country's future energy security.

Eskom is undergoing a process which will see it divided into the Generation, Transmission and Distribution entities.

“We must dispel the idea that unbundling of Eskom into three separate state-owned entities is out of step with international trends. The reality is that over 100 countries including China, Germany and Russia have established independent transmission and system operation companies.

“We need to dispel the claim that creating a more competitive, efficient and sustainable electricity generation market threatens the ability of the state to provide affordable electricity to its citizens.

“On the contrary, the reforms we are undertaking will improve the ability of the state to provide power to the people now and into the future,” he said.

The President assured South Africans that a combination of all of the steps government is taking and the work done at the state power utility will bear fruit in addressing the energy crisis.

“With the focus that the Minister of Electricity will have on load shedding and the work that is being done by Eskom and the board I do believe that we stand a much better chance to address this overriding challenge and crisis that our country faces,” President Ramaphosa said. –