A stark reality check on South Africa’s energy crisis

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

Note to editors: The speech below was delivered in Parliament this afternoon by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Electricity, Samantha Graham-Maré MP in response to the Electricity Minister, Kgosientso Ramokgopa.

It is easy to see why Minister Ramokgopa has been nominated for a Feather Award as Socialite of the Year.  He is most certainly the most likeable Minister in Cabinet with his friendly demeanour and charming grin.

He must also be acknowledged for his ongoing briefings on the energy crisis as Head of NECOM.  It has been a refreshing change to have a Minister who is willing to engage on a regular basis and provide feedback on a crisis that has had devastating effects on our country.

That being said, however, affability and a winning smile is not going to resolve the energy crisis.  And despite Dr Ramokgopa’s immutable optimism, neither is this government if things do not take a radical turn.

The Energy Action Plan is over a year old.  Minister Ramokgopa’s appointment was made over 7 months ago.  And this year we have experienced the worst period of loadshedding in our country’s history.

The recent decrease in stages with several days of loadshedding suspended, has been gratefully received – especially by Proteas and Springboks fans.  Isn’t it sad that as a nation, we feel blessed that we all had electricity so that we could collectively watch our national teams shooting the lights out?

But while we bask in the current loadshedding holiday, we must not become complacent.  Our energy crisis has not been solved.  It has merely been temporarily stayed.  And there is a huge amount of work that lies ahead to not only develop a stable, efficient and cost effective energy sector, but also to ensure that it complies with our climate change objectives to meet the just energy transition undertakings we have entered into and to which we are bound.

Kusile, naturally has been both the major cause of the crisis over the last 12 months, and has conversely been the reason for the alleviation of loadshedding recently.  The power station, having already cost us R250 billion to build has been bedeviled by corruption, design flaws and mismanagement and, as we know, at one stage was not generating a single kilowatt.

While Units 1 and 3 have been brought back online after their spectacular failure last year, this has been a temporary repair, costing us R250 million.  The repairs effected have bypassed the desulpherisation process in a bid to bring them on-line earlier to address loadshedding.  And while the addition of 1800 Mega Watts to the grid is definitely worth celebrating, there is a dark side to the expediting of repairs.  The short cuts taken to bring Kusile back on line will see a massive increase in pollution and emissions with the potential impact being around 680 deaths and 3000 asthma emergencies in surrounding communities.  A catastrophically high price to pay for electricity.

It is clear that despite the Energy Action Plan having identified a number of key priorities for the short, medium and long term, government has continued to suffer from myopia, coupled with inertia.

As Minister Ramokgopa sings in perfect harmony with Minister Gwede Mantashe from the Coal Industry songsheet, he attempts to drown out the noise from the renewable sector.  Sadly, both he and Minister Mantashe, in their stubborn refusal to deviate from a coal-based energy system are missing the enormous opportunities offered by a mixed energy solution which incorporates a balance of renewable energy sources to supplement our existing energy supply.  He is also missing out on around $11 billion!!

Introducing renewables to the energy mix does not mean that we shut down the coal sector, fire the miners and pray for wind and sunny days.  What it means is that we begin to address the peaking issues we face by supplementing the existing power supply with renewables and as technology improves, stability increases and our energy system stabilizes, we proceed with a just transition from dirty energy to clean power.  By following a rational, balanced approach that recognises our energy needs, our labour needs and our financial constraints, we can return to having a world class energy system.

If you think that this is not possible, I can assure you that it is.  You need only look to the Western Cape to see what can be done when you have political will, consensus on outcome and a plan with actionable targets and realistic timeframes.  While the national government, including Minister Ramogkopa continue to speak about ideas, the Western Cape is implementing them.  While the ANC provide endless constraints and barriers to addressing the energy crisis, the Western Cape are providing solutions.

Let me unpack this for you.

The ANC government continue to cite grid constraints as a barrier to entry for the many Independent Power Producers who are ready to bring renewable energy on line, particularly in the Western, Eastern and Northern Capes.  The cost to increase the grid by the requisite 14000 kilometres is estimated at R390 billion.

On the other hand, the three Capes are the centre of renewable energy development with the Northern Cape currently providing 60% of renewable energy in South Africa.  It is also important to highlight that Eskom has not brought a single kilowatt of renewable energy into the system this year.  All 4700 MegaWatts of renewable energy has been brought online by rooftop solar installed by private individuals and businesses.

The DA led Western Cape, recognising that Eskom is unable to address the crisis, has developed an Energy Resilience Programme which is twofold.  It firstly addresses the impacts of loadshedding on businesses and citizens and then secondly looks to facilitate a lower level of reliance on Eskom.

Part of this programme includes a New Energy Generation Programme, as well as a Network Development Programme coupled with Demand Side Management.  Premier Alan Winde and his team have taken the system that they were given and made it work.  The government as a whole has adopted an approach that has seen schools, municipalities and provincial health invest in rooftop solar.  Programmes have been designed around small scale embedded generation, feed-in tariffs and wheeling frameworks under the Green Economy Ecosystem Support Programme.

And not only is this paying dividends during loadshedding with the City of Cape Town at least one stage lower than the rest of the country, it is also putting the Western Cape on a long-term trajectory that will see it far ahead of the rest of South Africa in terms of energy stability and security.

And yet, the Minister has failed to meet with the Ad Hoc Committee on Energy in the Western Cape, no less than 3 times. Surely this is a time when we should all be collaborating to solve the crises that we face?  Unless that is not what the ANC government want to do.

It is growing increasingly apparent, in fact, that the ANC government want to patch and repair whatever they can in order to control loadshedding until the election.  They have no real long term strategy for the benefit of this country. Instead, they are following a short-term appeasement of their constituents.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the fact that we still do not have an updated Integrated Resource Plan.  No plan. No accountability.

It is very clear, particularly in light of the Western Cape’s successes, that the only party with a plan to rescue South Africa from the energy crisis is the Democratic Alliance.  Roll on 2024.

Be part of the mission to rescue South Africa, get help registering to vote at check.da.org.za