We all have a role to play

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By Minister of Public Enterprise Lynne Brown

During his State of the Nation address (SONA) President Jacob Zuma unveiled the plans in motion to deal with the country’s electricity challenges.

It would be foolish to dispute that the current energy constraints and the disruptions caused by load shedding hinder economic growth.

Electricity supply in the next few months will remain tight and there are no quick fixes. Government is, however, confident the measures unveiled by President Zuma have set us on a path to greater energy security. The plan involves a short, medium and long term response.   

The short and medium-term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand. The long term plan will see a master plan implemented over a number of years.

President Zuma identified the need to resolve Eskom’s financial challenges as a matter of urgency.  “As a priority we are going to stabilise Eskom’s finances. In this regard, government will honour its commitment to give Eskom around R23 billion in the next fiscal year,” he said.

As far back as 2011, government and business agreed on the need for greater energy efficiency.  The Energy Efficiency Leadership Network (EELN) was launched at COP17 in 2011 and currently has about 60 large companies who are signatories.

The network allows businesses to share best practice and to learn from the experience of other companies. It also provides a platform through which members can engage directly with key government stakeholders on energy efficiency issues.

Running alongside this network is the Private Sector Energy Efficiency Programme, which is supported by the UK Department of International Development. Currently, more than 1 000 small businesses, 500 medium and over 40 large businesses have signed up to the programme, which aims to help companies to identify potential electricity savings.

Three new power stations - Kusile, Medupi and Ingula - will add 10 000 megawatts of capacity to the national grid over time.

Work is steadily progressing at Medupi. Its Unit 6 turbine commissioning has reached a critical milestone and is running at the optimum speed of 3 000 revolutions per minute.  Indications are it will be able to provide full load by July.

Independent Power Producers, using renewable energy sources, will also play a much larger role in future. To date, government has procured 4 000 megawatts from them and 1 500 megawatts has already been connected to the grid.

The procurement process for 2 400 megawatts of new gas-fired energy from Independent Power Producers will start in the first quarter of the new financial year. A further 2 600 megawatts of hydro-electric capacity will be sourced from the SADC region.

The long-term energy plan calls for a mix of energy sources and includes coal, gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower and other sources.

Critics will no doubt argue that these are long term projects and our challenges are immediate.  We would counter that the immediate challenges are being handled. The energy situation affects everyone and we all have a part to play in finding a lasting solution.

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