With South Africa having returned to stage 2 load shedding this morning, and some 11 000 MW of Eskom generation capacity out of operation, the question has to be asked: What is the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, doing to secure South Africa’s electricity supply? The answer, sadly, is precious little.
In December 2019, when load shedding peaked at stage 6, the President and Minister Mantashe committed to an Emergency Power Procurement programme to add 2 000 to 3 000 MW to the grid as a matter of urgency, in order to ensure stability of supply. But the good intentions of President Cyril Ramaphosa were undermined by his Minister, who has sat on his hands and not procured a single megawatt of additional generation. Nor has he secured the promised incremental supply from existing renewable energy independent power producers with spare capacity, or increased the exemption threshold required for licensing of generation facilities from 1MW to 10MW as had been widely expected, and he has done absolutely nothing about opening the next bid window for renewable energy Independent Power Producers (IPP).
Instead, the Minister has dithered and squandered a period of lowered demand, during which he could have done so much more to bolster South Africa’s power supply.
South Africa needs to break free of the Eskom monopoly. One of the things necessary to do this is to create a transmission grid that is independent of Eskom’s generation facility. This is exactly what the DA’s Independent Electricity Management Operator (IEMO) Bill would do. This bill, introduced by DA Chief Whip, Natasha Mazzone MP in 2019, would permit Eskom’s generation plants and those of independent power producers to compete on a level playing field, and allow metropolitan municipalities with the financial capacity and technical capabilities to purchase electricity directly from IPPs.
It is clear that Mantashe is out of his depth and playing to the unions/coal lobby. It is time that President Ramaphosa either held him to the commitments made in December last year, or fire him from his cabinet. Mantashe cannot be allowed to continue as the handbrake on the South African economy. To save lives and livelihoods, we need a secure supply of electricity, at the lowest possible cost, in the shortest possible timeframe.
The DA will not permit South Africa’s electricity needs to be further compromised by this incompetent and bumbling minister. We need decisive action now.
Click here to read more about the DA’s plan to drive the cost of electricity down, introduce competition into the energy sector, and diversify the country’s energy sources to introduce more renewables, as well as our record of action on the electricity crisis over the last 8 years.