Security of energy supply remains critical during the Covid-19 lockdown period, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe stressed on March 25, adding that the risk of load-shedding would be low during the period, owing to the fall in demand from energy intensive firms.
The supply of fuel to critical and essential services, as well as the supply of coal to Eskom for electricity supply and liquid fuels production would, therefore, continue as essential services, he added.
Production of coal and the import of liquid fuels would be reduced, however, in response to falling demand.
Speaking at one of the briefings held by Cabinet Ministers following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a 21-day lockdown in response to the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus, Mantashe reported that a meeting had been held with stakeholders in the energy sector to consolidate planning.
He said that the focus of the meeting had been on the safety of people during the period, including employees of the energy companies. However, it was agreed that Eskom should be fully supplied with coal.
Mantashe noted that demand would fall materially as industries closed and that he, therefore, did not “have a fear of load-shedding”.
Likewise, fuel supply was also unlikely to be at risk, owing to a fall in demand. However, he reported that fuel suppliers were considering limiting their hours of operation during the lockdown period.
As a direct result of discussions with industry it was decided that the following activities would be considered an essential service:
- The production and distribution of petroleum products, including fuel, paraffin and liquefied petroleum gas. This entails shipping, manufacturing, terminals, distribution and retail.
- In the case of petroleum products, imports will be scaled back for the duration of the lockdown, as there will be excess capacity
- Regulatory oversight on nuclear facilities, as well as nuclear safeguard inspections.
- Production and supply of nuclear medicines and chemicals used at refineries.
- The Safari-1 research reactor and support technical services.
Mantashe stressed that engagements were ongoing and that updates would be provided “as the situation unfolds”.
Minerals Council South Africa Roger Baxter confirmed in a statement that mining operations supplying Eskom would continue, albeit at curtailed rates, to ensure energy security.
Coal supplied to enable the manufacture of liquid fuels was also considered an essential service, he added.