Minister of Suggestions in the Presidency ignores long-term impacts of proposed short-term solutions to load-shedding

Issued by Samantha Graham-Maré MP – DA Shadow Minister of Electricity
03 May 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Samantha Graham-Maré MP.

In his latest pronouncements on solving the electricity crisis, Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has suggested that one of his immediate proposals is to use open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT) to supplement generating capacity from Eskom.

OCGTs are ordinarily used when there is a problem with supply from Eskom.  It is an emergency response to breakdowns and maintenance and not a permanent solution.  In fact, these OCGTs are not designed to run permanently and the threat of minimizing their operational efficacy and potential for breaking down is very real.

The suggestion to become heavily reliant on OCGTs to keep loadshedding at a manageable level during the winter months would require Eskom to utilise its full proposed diesel budget for the financial year, within 6 months at a projected cost of R30 billion.

When pressed on how Eskom would source more funds for diesel for the balance of the financial year, the Minister suggested that a portion of the funds generated through the 18.65% electricity tariff increase could be used to fund diesel purchases.

While it seems a feasible solution, it is deeply concerning that the tariff increase which should be used for the upgrading and development of electricity infrastructure would be used to buy diesel.  It is exactly this failure to invest in maintenance, growth and development that has resulted in the current electricity crisis.  We cannot continue to sacrifice long-term benefits for the attainment of short-term gains.

Minister Ramokgopa’s suggestion for sourcing additional funds for diesel post the winter burning frenzy is to “come to the table much later in the year to find more money”.  While it is of some comfort that the Minister is alert to, and focused on the increased demand during winter, there are other seasons in a year.

We are currently in autumn and loadshedding is lurching between Stages, hitting Stage 6 with regular monotony. It doesn’t help to limit the stages in winter only to be unable to mitigate for spring and summer. Especially when we are looking at a depleted budget and limitations on the ability of the OCGTs to burn large quantities of diesel.

There is absolutely no doubt that Minister Ramokgopa is grasping at straws and that despite the so-called Energy Action Plan, there is no actual plan in place.

While Minister Gwede Mantashe might believe that loadshedding is nothing more than an irritation to society, for many, loadshedding is destroying jobs, killing businesses and placing lives at risk.

Vague suggestions for solutions are not going to cut it. We need resolve. We need action. And we need somebody who is empowered to show both. Minister Ramokgopa is not that somebody.