President Cyril Ramaphosa, who cut short his international engagements as South Africa once again descended into Stage 6 load-shedding, has acknowledged that priority has to be given to solving the electricity crisis if the country aims to attract the investment required to raise growth and tackle high levels of unemployment.
Writing in his weekly newsletter following a meeting in Washington DC with US President Joe Biden, where it was agreed that a joint task force on trade and investment be established to increase business ties between the two countries, Ramaphosa said: “First and foremost, we have to overcome the electricity crisis”.
“Solving the electricity crisis is necessary if we are to realise the potential of our economy.
“In 2018, we launched an ambitious investment drive to raise R1.2-trillion in new investments over five years.
“To date, and with still a year to go, we have raised more than 90% of that amount in commitments from both domestic and foreign investors.
“Of these commitments around R330-billion has already flowed into the economy, opening new factories, expanding production lines and creating new jobs,” he wrote, highlighting Ford South Africa’s R16-billion investment to expand the local production of the new-generation Ford Ranger, as well as recent plant openings by Sappi and Hesto Harnesses.
Notably avoiding any criticism of the current Eskom leadership, the President said the severe load-shedding of recent weeks was a reminder of how unstable Eskom’s ageing power stations had become.
It had also given “greater urgency” to the measures announced on July 25 to stabilise electricity supply.
“On Sunday, I held an urgent virtual meeting with Ministers and officials on the reasons for the current load-shedding and the steps being taken to reduce the severity and frequency of load-shedding in the coming days and weeks.
“Eskom has already announced some of the measures it is taking, and we will remain seized with this issue until the situation is resolved.”
The State-owned utility had received board and shareholder approval to buy 1 000 MW of existing surplus capacity from existing independent power producers (IPPs), industrial businesses with generating capacity and from countries in the region that were in a position to export electricity to South Africa.
Eskom and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan indicated that the first power arising from IPPs and co-generators should be available soon, with the utility indicating that it aims to sign the first power supply agreement during the course of the current week.
“Additionally, Eskom has the go-ahead to procure over 200 MW from the Southern African Power Pool, as part of our immediate solutions to our energy shortfall,” Gordhan announced.
He also reported that Eskom had recruited experienced former employees and energy experts who responded to the call to assist Eskom, reporting that in the past week alone 18 seasoned energy specialists had re-entered the Eskom system to assist with operations.