“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” were the words of wisdom offered by former Botswana president Ian Khama to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He was commenting on the unprecedented electricity generation crisis at state-owned utility Eskom that led to stage 6 load shedding this week.
On a short visit to the country, Khama said while he could not tell Ramaphosa what to do, he was of the opinion that diversifying the generation sector with different energy sources, as well as opening up the industry to independent power producers (IPPs) was the way to go.
“I have every confidence that Cyril Ramaphosa is determined to tackle the problem that South Africa is facing with its electricity generation.
“We follow very closely, even if we are not in government, what is happening in this regard,” Khama explained. “When I was in office, all I can say is what the direction I was hoping to take with generation in Botswana and that was to split your options for generation.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, like in coal, for example. So you should diversify and have a range of options for generation.”
Khama said a diversified energy mix, including solar and even nuclear, was advisable, although the latter had its controversies and challenges.
“We need to also, in the future, open up to IPPs and have a range of power producers if they can assure us that the fees they will charge are not going to go through the roof.
“I think that kind of scenario would work for Botswana. I don’t know if it would work for South Africa.”
This week, Ramaphosa expressed shock at the system breakdowns at Eskom, which led to a second prolonged bout of load shedding this year.
The president said there had been an element of sabotage and about 2,000MW of power had been lost due to this act of sabotage.
The crisis came hot on the heels of a late-November announcement by Eskom that Unit 2 at Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, had attained commercial operation status, adding just under 800MW to the country’s power grid.
Less than a month later, breakdowns at that facility led to coal supply and other challenges, which plummeted the country into stage 6 darkness this week.
Government was in the process of unbundling the power utility’s various divisions to operate as separate entities.
This was in a bid to tackle its dire financial and governance challenges, which some have seen as the first step to privatising the ailing state entity.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.