Cabinet Meets Business: A focus on Energy

23 Aug 2022 in Where We Govern

To once again demonstrate that the Western Cape Government (WCG) is solidly committed to resolving the country’s electricity crisis, we called a Cabinet Meets Business gathering with the sole purpose of focusing on energy.

It comes at a critical time as we all must double down with our combined efforts to end load shedding once and for all and bring stability to power production to grow the economy.

To achieve this, we need to build strong partnerships; and that is where business leaders and role players in the energy sector are crucial. “The Provincial Government cannot do this alone. Eskom too cannot by itself address this challenge,” said Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

The Western Cape has a well-established business environment, complete with the required skills ecosystem and the steadfast intent to address energy production challenges, not just for the province but the entire country. Through strong public-private partnerships, large-scale energy generation is possible to build our energy resilience.

This gathering was an opportunity for the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet to meet face-to-face with various stakeholders, to further cement collaboration and create more partnerships.

When load shedding escalated several weeks ago, the WCG, under the stewardship of Finance and Economic Opportunities Minister Mireille Wenger, held an energy summit and invited a wide array of experts, including Eskom, to further map our way out of the darkness. Bold solutions were put on the table. Various proposals from bringing more Independent Power Producers into the fold to looking at other exciting interventions like green hydrogen were robustly and thoroughly discussed. Today’s gathering adds even more voices to the ongoing discussion around fixing our power system.

Innovation is one of the WCG’s core values. The Premier said: “We already have a fertile innovation culture in our Government and province. We must use occasions such as this to build on this.”

The Premier added: “It is the responsibility of not just those who attended Cabinet Meets Business to come up with solutions, but every single citizen should also do what they can to help, even if it means contributing through the reduction of energy usage.”

He added this crisis requires a whole-of-society approach as it impacts the economy and all our lives.

Eskom Group Executive Andre de Ruyter agreed. He was candid in his presentation in saying: “It will not be an easy journey to end load shedding. It is not easy to solve due to decisions made in the past,” but he added: “In the crisis we currently find ourselves in lie the seeds of opportunity.”

Taking questions from attendees, some of whom enquired about the move to renewable energy, de Ruyter assured the gathering: “Energy transition is inevitable, but it must be a just transition.” He added: “Eskom is investing in reskilling the utility’s employees working in the coal management chain with accredited training to find meaningful jobs beyond coal.”

He offered another message of hope: “From this crisis, we can create massive opportunities. Imagine the jobs we can save and create if we invest in solving the crisis now?” he asked.

Minister Wenger said: “Cabinet Meets Business is borne out of a belief in the power of partnerships. Therefore, we brought together local and provincial government, the private sector and Eskom to share our plans to address this urgent issue, which is a major impediment to our country’s success.”

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said: “This year is already the worst year of load shedding on record, and we are only eight months in. The constant threat of more blackouts hangs over the heads of all South Africans. I am grateful here in Cape Town we are often able to spare residents and businesses up to two levels of load shedding.” He added: “Putting an end to our economic malaise requires urgent action on energy and the City has embarked on an ambitious plan to end load shedding over time by making Cape Town less reliant on Eskom. I am encouraged that we as the City of Cape Town have capable partners in the Provincial Government and other Western Cape municipalities who not only share our vision of an energy secure future for the province but who are also committed to working within their own spheres of competence to ensure the key ingredients for energy security are put in place as soon as possible.”

“It must be emphasised,” the Premier stressed, “We stand with Eskom in solving this crisis. Under the Group Chief Executive and his team, I believe the power utility is doing everything it can to resolve the country’s energy woes, and as the WCG and City, we will help wherever we can. There is always opportunity in crisis, and the call was put out today for businesses to invest in innovative energy generation solutions, and to look at innovation as a whole in this space – and to do so with haste. Energy generation has become an economic opportunity that businesses should look to embrace.”