Bold plan to tackle South Africa’s energy crisis


13 February 2015

President Jacob Zuma dedicated much of his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on 12 February to explain plans that are in motion to deal with the country’s electricity challenges.

Delivering the 2015 Sona in the National Assembly in Cape Town, Zuma unveiled a battle plan aimed at resolving short- and long-term energy challenges. He was speaking as Eskom’s power grid remained constrained, with the power utility being forced to implement load shedding.

“We have developed a plan which involves short-, medium- and long-term responses. The short- and medium-term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand,” said Zuma.

“The long-term plan involves finalising our 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, [the] government will honour its commitment to give Eskom around R23-billion in the next fiscal year.”

Energy constraints hindered economic growth and were a major inconvenience to economic growth.

Short- and medium-term energy plan

The president made a plea to all individuals, households, industries and government departments to play their part by saving electricity to avoid load shedding. An instruction had been issued to all government-owned buildings, through the Department of Public Works, to be energy efficient.

Zuma said the short- and medium-term plans involved improving the maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand.

“Given the high cost of diesel, Eskom has been directed to switch from diesel to gas as a source of energy for the utility’s generators. Households are also being encouraged to switch from electricity to gas for cooking, heating and other uses.”

He said the construction of three power stations – Kusile, Medupi and Ingula – would add 10 000MW of power to the national grid. The government was also pursuing alternative energy sources.

To date, it had procured 4 000MW from independent power producers (IPPs) 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 900MW of renewable energy has also been sourced, with 32 projects with a capacity of just over 1 500MW completed and connected to the grid,” Zuma said.

“Eskom itself has completed the construction of the Sere Wind Farm, which is already delivering 100MW to the grid, well ahead of its intended launch in March this year.”

Some of the measures taken to get additional power on to the grid include procuring 2 400MW of new coal-fired power generation capacity from IPPs in December 2014.

The procurement process for 2 400MW of new gas-fired generation would begin in the first quarter of the new financial year (2015/16) and a total of 2 600MW megawatts of hydro-electric capacity would be sourced from the Southern African Development Community.

The long-term energy plan

The president said the government would pursue gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower and other sources as part of the energy mix. South Africa was surrounded by gas-rich countries, while shale gas deposits had been discovered in the Karoo.

“The Operation Phakisa Ocean Economy initiative, launched last year, also promises to unveil more oil and gas resources, which will be a game-changer for our country and region. [The] government is also exploring the procurement of the 9 600MW nuclear build programme as approved in the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030.”

Zuma added that the government had signed inter-governmental agreements and carried out vendor parade workshops in which the US, South Korea, Russia, France and China came to present their proposals on nuclear power.

“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 ageing power plants.

“With regards to hydro power, the Grand Inga Hydro-electrical Project partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo will generate over 48 000MW of clean hydro- electricity. South Africa will have access to over 15 000MW,” he said.