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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

Electricity minister warns that the next 150 days will be ‘very difficult’

The government and Eskom are working on short-term measures to relieve the expected increased impact of load shedding.

Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has warned South Africans that the next 150 days will be “very difficult”.

This as the winter season approaches and Eskom expects an increase in demand. According to Ramokgopa, the expected increase will be anything from 3 2000MW to 3 7000MW.

“We have to do something in the short term to ensure that we provide some degree of relief.”

Ramokgopa briefed the media on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan on Friday afternoon.

Short-term plans for load shedding

Ramokgopa said although the country should brace for the tough days ahead, the government and Eskom were working on short-term measures to relieve the expected increased impact of load shedding during the winter season.

“The work on improving the energy availability factor is continuous,” he said.

“We continue to ensure that we undertake substantial maintenance and we did that during the summer period and we have seen temporarily some improvement in the six power stations. We really want to maintain that.”

ALSO READ: Eskom announces slight load shedding reprieve for weekend

Eskom was also working on bringing back units at different power stations.

“The timelines that Eskom has shared with us is that units 1, 2 and 3 at Kusile were discontinued as a result of the compromised structural integrity of the chimney,” he said.

“Those units should be back by December – that’s 2 100MW.

“We’re working to return unit 4 in Medupi that was taken off in August 2021. They found an accelerated path to get this unit up and running, we should be getting that unit much earlier than expected. We also continue to work on unit 1 at Koeberg to make sure that we don’t extend the delays, we’re able to get back that 980MW to address the situation.”

Eskom has previously told South Africans that the unavailability of the three units at Kusile and the unit 1 at Koeberg had removed 3 080MW of capacity from the grid, which is equivalent to 3 stages of load shedding.

ALSO READ: ANC supports Ramokgopa’s plans to deal with load shedding

“We need to acknowledge that the system is under severe strain and we can see that we’re oscillating between stage 4 and stage 6. These are stages of load shedding that undermine the growth of the South African economy. Load shedding does that, but it gets accentuate when you reach these stages of load shedding.”

Energy Action Plan

“As you know, when the ministry was introduced, we were not meant to introduce a new plan. We’re working within the parameters of the Energy Action Plan that President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled in July 2022,” said Ramokgopa.

Ramokgopa said while the Energy Action Plan was unveiled in July last year, the fight against load shedding started before its introduction.

“It’s an effort that has been there,” he said.

Rooftop solar panels

During his budget speech in February, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced tax incentives for South Africans who install solar rooftop panels.

Businesses and households that install solar panels will be able to claim a 25% tax rebate of up to R15 000 from government, said Godongwana at the time.

Ramokgopa said on Friday that South Africans were taking up the opportunity.

ALSO READ: Here’s how going solar will score households and businesses some tax relief

“We can see from the customs and registration data that, of course we don’t have sufficient manufacturing capacity in the country and a lot of these panels are drawn in from outside,” he said.

“One of the things that we’ll be doing as a ministry is to ensure that over a period of time we’re able to create a manufacturing capacity in the country – to expand our industrial footprint so that we’re able to benefit from this incentives so that we don’t just rely on imports. In the course of that we’re going to absorb employment, address the challenge of unemployment but also broaden the industrial base.”

Private sector participation

Since the removal of the licensing requirements, there has been a massive pipeline of private investment in the electricity generation, said Ramokgopa.

According to the minister, this pipeline has grown to about 10 000 Megawatts.

“We do expect that the first of the project to be connected to grid by end of this calendar year,” he said.

“Six projects from bid window 5 have reached a financial close and are in construction as we speak now, with a further seven projects from the same bid window and 6 projects from bid window 6 currently on track to reach a financial close ASAP. They give us a combined 2 800MW. We’re confident that these projects will begin to connect to the grid by 2024.

ALSO READ: Watch: Increased load shedding no reason to fear grid collapse, says Eskom

“We are confident that beyond the winter period, we will see that the intervention are more sustainable, and ultimately, we should be able to address load shedding.

“We need to move with speed and address the issues that constitute an emergency as I speak to you so that we’re able to protect the economy and ensure we get people into jobs.”

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