Eskom’s announcement of stage 2 loadshedding yesterday, with more (and possibly worse) expected later this week, highlights the urgent need for South Africa to urgently open up its electricity generation sector. Loadshedding – or what should really be called rolling blackouts – are becoming a more frequent experience in a country with abundant natural resources and no lack of skills, capital or willingness to address the electricity supply problem.
So what’s stopping us? Put simply: government red tape. The Risk Mitigation Emergency Power Procurement Programme, announced with much fanfare at the height of stage 6 loadshedding in December 2019 with the goal of bringing 2000MW of additional generation capacity online “within months” has not yet procured a single megawatt. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) has been marking time since 2015 – although generation procured then is now (finally!) coming online, no new procurement has taken place in 6 years.
Even Eskom acknowledges that it cannot do it alone. Since the rolling blackouts first started in 2007, precious little has been done to resolve this crisis, and the delays, cost overruns and mechanical failures at Medupi and Khusile have not helped. In fact, ESKOM has demonstrated a complete inability to sort out the problem.
The time has come for South Africa – and more especially the African National Congress and its tripartite alliance – to acknowledge the fact that it needs the support of the private sector and civil society to solve our electricity crisis. We need to urgently open our grid to competition. Gwede Mantashe must immediately ease the regulatory environment to allow for unlicenced generation up to 50MW and announce bid window 5 of the REIPPPP. If he is not prepared to do so, President Ramaphosa should take urgent steps to replace him.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the immediate review and amendment of schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act, the expediting of the unbundling of ESKOM (which we believe should go further and create a truly independent grid operator), and a prioritization of the opening of the next and all future bid windows for the REIPPPP.
South Africa cannot afford any more of Gwede Mantashe’s procrastination. It’s time for him to shape up or ship out.
Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.