President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address yesterday evening delved into the current status of South Africa’s electricity crisis. While it is clear that a short, medium and long-term goal has been established to address national load shedding outages plaguing the country, it is undoubtedly been put into action years (if not decades) too late.
During his speech the President comfortably outlined how thousands of megawatts of electricity will come on-stream in the medium and long-term, but he gave no reassurance as to specific timeframes. This means South Africans can take little comfort in knowing its current electricity deficit situation will change in the near future.
Zuma also failed to acknowledge if government and Eskom’s energy plans were entirely sufficient to satisfactorily address the country’s energy requirements in the long-term, which continue to escalate every year.
“The country is currently experiencing serious energy constraints which are an impediment to economic growth and is a major inconvenience to everyone in the country,” President Zuma stated. “Overcoming the challenge is uppermost in our programme. We are doing everything we can to resolve the energy challenge.”
Resolving this crisis has been detailed in short, medium and long-term initiatives which will reposition the country in the right direction. But when remains the question.
The short and medium term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand while the long term plan involves finalising government’s long-term energy security master plan.
“As a priority we are going to stabilise Eskom’s finances to enable the utility to manage the current period. In this regard, government will honour its commitment to give Eskom around R23 billion in the next fiscal year,” said the President. Hopefully Eskom will return this favour through transparency and ensure South Africans and industry of its intentions to use the cash wisely to speed up its process to resolve the crisis.
The construction of the three new power stations Kusile, Medupi and Ingula, will add 10 000 MW of capacity to the national grid while the quest for alternative energy sources is also on-going.
“To date government has procured 4 000 MW from Independent Power Producers, using renewable sources. The first three bid windows of the renewable energy procurement process attracted more than R140 billion from private investors.”
A total of 3 900 MW of renewable energy has also been sourced, with 32 projects with a capacity of just over 1 500 MW completed and connected to the grid.
Eskom itself has completed the construction of the Sere Wind Farm, which is already delivering 100 MW to the grid, well ahead of its intended launch in March this year.
“Government also began procurement in December 2014, of 2 400 MW of new coal fired power generation capacity, from Independent Power Producers. The procurement process for 2 400 MW of new gas fired generation will commence in the first quarter of the new financial year.”
Zumba continued his megawatt tally adding that a total of 2 600 MW of hydro-electric capacity will be sourced from the SADC region.
The long-term plan, a timeframe which was not specifically outlined, includes the pursuit of gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower and other sources as part of the energy mix.
“Government is exploring the procurement of the 9 600 MW nuclear build programme as approved in the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030.To date government has signed Inter-Governmental Agreements and carried out vendor Parade workshops in which five countries came to present their proposals on nuclear. These include the United States of America, South Korea, Russia, France and China.
“All these countries will be engaged in a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme.
“Our target is to connect the first unit to the grid by 2023, just in time for Eskom to retire part of its aging power plants.”
Apparently, South Africa also has stakes on the Democratic Republic of Congo power plant which has been in planning for years and years.
“The grand Inga Hydro-electrical project partnership with the DRC will generate over 48 000 MW of clean hydro-electricity. South Africa will have access to over 15 000 MW of this.
Should government and Eskom deliver on its promised, South Africa’s investor confidence will slowly return, but can it, and in what timeframe? For now, load shedding is here to stay.