President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed to ensuring that the current “uncertainties and inconsistencies” inhibiting businesses and households from building and financing new power generation capacity will be removed so that the country can “embark on a new trajectory” of self generation.
Addressing about 400 business leaders in Sandton at Business Unity South Africa’s (Busa's) second yearly Business Economic Indaba, the President proclaimed a "new era" of self-generation, while acknowledging frustration at the slow pace at which government was moving to remove prevailing policy and regulatory constraints to such plants.
Earlier, Minerals Council South Africa president Mxolisi Mgojo lamented government inaction in removing the obstacles, while describing the country's prevailing inadequate electricity supply as the “biggest risk” to the mining industry and business more generally.
The council estimates that its members could add at least 500 MW to the grid, while the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association estimates that 2 000 MW of distributed capacity could be added across businesses and households should regulatory hurdles be clear.
Mgojo, who is also Exxaro CEO, noted that several self-generation proposals had already been made to government to alleviate the crisis, but that the “political will” to act on the information had hitherto been absent.
Ramaphosa said the government was now ready to embrace self-generation as part of the solution to addressing the country’s electricity deficit, which was contributing to an “economic crisis” of low growth and rising unemployment.
Action would, thus, be taken to remove the obstacles to distributed-generation plants, as “we cannot stop technology and we cannot stop the future from arriving”.
Ramaphosa even noted that one of his neighbours had already installed solar panels on the rooftop of his house and had told him in a telephone conversation that, if allowed, he would sell his surplus power back to Eskom.
The President was speaking against a backdrop of a recent resumption of load-shedding by State-owned electricity utility Eskom, which was struggling to contain unplanned breakdowns across its aged coal fleet.
Eskom and load-shedding were also threatening to destabilise his Cabinet, with various groupings, including the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, calling for the axing of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gorhan, who exercises political oversight of Eskom.
Even within the governing African National Congress certain factions are calling on the President to shift political oversight for Eskom from Gordhan to Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Ramaphosa did not respond directly to these calls, but nevertheless appeared to reject a Busa proposal that the energy plan fall directly under The Presidency, quipping that such a move could make him little more that “Minister of Eskom”.
He welcomed Busa’s efforts, however, to find solutions to South Africa’s economic slump, stating that the country required more than armchair critics to overcome its current economic problems.
He added that, only through action, could South Africa change course and implement the reforms required to meet the goals outlined in the National Development Plan.
Engineering News provided LIVE coverage of Ramaphosa's speech at the event:
Part 2January 14, 2020