Interventions to end load-shedding will take a while to have an effect and power cuts will be with us for some time, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
Presenting a political overview to the ANC NEC lekgotla in Esselen Park, Ekurhuleni, Ramaphosa said resolving the energy crisis and putting an end to load-shedding was one of the country’s “most immediate and pressing challenges”.
He said the National Energy Crisis Committee and Eskom had led briefings in the past two weeks to update stakeholders on progress made in implementing the July 2022 Energy Action Plan and outline the work under way to accelerate it.
There were several areas of progress in this regard.
“We have signed agreements with independent power producers for 26 renewable energy projects, which together will generate around 2,800MW.”
An additional 300MW had been imported through the Southern African power pool, and negotiations were under way to secure a potential 1,000MW from neighbouring countries.
He said Eskom also launched a programme to purchase up to 1,000MW of power from companies with existing generation capacity.
“We have cut red tape and streamlined regulatory processes, reducing the time frame for environmental authorisations, registration of new projects and grid connection approvals.”
A team of independent experts had been established to work closely with Eskom to diagnose the problems and take action to improve plant performance, particularly at the six power stations with the most breakdowns, he said.
“These interventions will take some time to have an effect and we must be honest with the people that load-shedding — in one form or another — will be with us for some time.
“Our objective is to lower the stages of load-shedding to the lower levels while we address the overall challenge of ensuring security of energy supply.”
Ramaphosa said the lekgotla needed a focused and in-depth discussion on how it could accelerate implementation of the Energy Action Plan and what additional measures needed to be taken in the immediate term to reduce the severity and frequency of load-shedding.
“The ANC and government must lead campaigns on how to manage our electricity usage, including campaigns against illegal connections and promote steps that every South African can take to conserve energy.”
Ramaphosa said Eskom had also intensified its maintenance programme to reduce unplanned breakdowns and extend the life of power plants.
“Maintenance is crucial for energy security and this has meant that more generating capacity is taken offline to be maintained.”
Ramaphosa said the electricity crisis continued to undermine economic growth and investment.
“Load-shedding damages businesses, disrupts households, compromises the provision of social services and affects the safety and wellbeing of the people. Load-shedding also has a negative impact on food production.”
Ramaphosa said the government also needed to address the perception that if it was called upon to make a trade-off between energy security and a just transition to a low-carbon economy, it would have to choose between coal and renewable energy.
He said South Africa’s future mix of energy sources was outlined in the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 (IRP19) , which envisaged a diversity of energy sources including coal, renewables, nuclear, gas, hydro, storage, biomass and other forms of energy.
In terms of the IRP19, several coal-fired power stations were due to be decommissioned between now and 2030, as they had reached the end of their life-cycle.
He said most of the country's coal-fired power stations, including Medupi and Kusile, would remain in operation and continue to provide the “base load” supply.
In addition to load-shedding, Ramaphosa said lawlessness, criminality, illegal mining, construction site extortion, cable theft and violence meant that many people — especially women and children — lived in fear.
Many households were finding it difficult to meet their most basic needs such as food, transport and energy due to the rising cost of living.
Ramaphosa said many municipalities were failing to perform their basic functions such as delivery of clean water, regular waste collection and road maintenance.
Racism and other forms of discrimination also continued to become more prevalent.