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By Gareth Cotterell

Digital Editor

Load shedding relief: Mantashe given renewable energy ultimatum

Civil society groups have threatened to get President Ramaphosa to force Mantashe to introduce renewable energy to the grid.

Civil society organisations have called on Minerals and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, to lessen the severity of load shedding by opening South Africa’s renewable energy floodgates.

They have given him 10 days to respond to their demands.

The organisations are calling for wind and solar energy systems to be built and connected to the country’s electricity grid.

“The most urgent thing is to get wind and photovoltaic (PV) energy onto the system as fast as possible,” said Hilton Trollip, a research fellow at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Global Risk Governance Programme.

Integrated resource plan

The organisations criticised Mantashe for not unlocking the country’s renewable energy, as stated in government’s integrated resource plan (IRP) in 2019.

“South Africa’s electricity supply is in dire straits… We call on Minister Mantashe to unlock the 13GW of renewable energy and battery storage as approved by Cabinet in the 2019 IRP,” said the South African Climate Action Network’s Thando Lukuko.

ALSO READ: Europe to give SA billions to help free country from coal and Eskom

Trollip suggested there is an unwillingness from government to get this extra energy on South Africa’s electricity system.

“Right now it’s stuck, but there needs to be a will to get this energy on the grid,” he said.

Solar and wind energy

The groups have also called for Mantashe to force Eskom to build solar and wind energy systems.

They also want Eskom to decrease tariffs and make it simpler for citizens and businesses to install solar systems and add the energy to the grid.

“It won’t get rid of loadshedding but [these measures] would mean it’s less severe, with maybe level 2 being the worst load shedding we experience, and it would occur less often,” said Peter Becker, spokesperson of the Koeberg Alert Alliance.

“Renewable energy and storage have been shown to be far quicker to build than other forms of generation. If Minister Mantashe acts with urgency and carries the best interest of South Africans at heart, he should do everything in his power to add more electricity to the grid as quickly as possible.”

ALSO READ: SA can’t rely on single state utility any longer, says Eskom board member amid load shedding

Mantashe has previously stated that his reluctance towards moving away from coal fired energy plants and introduce renewable energy is because he believes it will lead to costlier electricity and a loss of jobs.

Independent energy analyst – Clyde Mallinson, however, poured cold water on the minister’s concerns.

“At the moment we are shedding jobs due to the lack of electricity. Jobs can be created by [renewable energy] installation but [even more] jobs are created by more available and more affordable electricity going forward,” he said.

The organisations that signed the open letter to Mantashe are:

  • 350Africa.org
  • African Climate Alliance (ACA)
  • Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)
  • Centre for Child Law
  • Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
  • Extinction Rebellion Cape Town
  • Extinction Rebellion Nelson Mandela Bay
  • Federation for a Sustainable Environment
  • Fossil Free South Africa
  • The Green Connection
  • Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA)
  • Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)
  • Project 90 by 2030
  • Section27
  • South Africa Climate Action Network (SACAN)
  • Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI)

The groups said if Mantashe does not respond by 17 July 2022, they will urge President Cyril Ramaphosa to instruct him to do so, “as was necessary to lift the limit for companies to produce their own electricity without a licence from 1MW to 100MW”.

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Emergency strategy for renewable energy

The call from the civil society groups comes after government’s National Planning Commission (NPC) on Wednesday called for an emergency plan to end load shedding in two years.

It said this could be done by introducing 10,000MW of wind and solar power and 5,000MW of battery storage.
It also wants regulatory obstacles to be removed.

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