The Western Cape has launched a Municipal Energy Resilience (MER) project which will help municipalities to generate, procure, and sell their own power and protect against load-shedding.
Western Cape Finance Minister David Maynier recently announced they will spend R48.8 million over the medium term and provide a further R20 million in the provincial reserves for the project.
He also announced six candidate municipalities participating in the first phase of the project this year – Drakenstein, Mossel Bay, Overstrand, Saldanha Bay, Stellenbosch, and Swartland.
The Western Cape government will collaborate with the City of Cape Town, which has already developed energy resilience, on the project.
The main aim of the project is to guard against load-shedding, which Maynier said costs the economy about R75 million per stage, per day in the Western Cape.
Last year South Africa experienced the worst year for load-shedding ever recorded, and this year started off even worse.
Dr Jarrad Wright, principal engineer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said although it is only mid-March, Eskom has already load-shed around 40% of the levels of 2020.
“When it comes to the economy Covid-19 is a left hook, and load shedding is a right hook,” said Maynier. “Together they often result in a knock-out blow to our economic recovery.”
There is no end in sight for load-shedding, which is why the Western Cape government decided to act through its energy resilience project.
The project will help municipalities to take advantage of new energy regulations to generate, procure and sell their own power to become more energy secure.
“The procurement of energy at utility and municipal distribution scale, such as bulk energy purchases from Independent Power Producers (IPPs), under conditions of developing and evolving policies and regulations is a complex and challenging task,” said Maynier.
“Municipalities may not have the policies, plans, resources, funding, or procurement expertise to procure wholesale electricity from sources other than Eskom, specifically IPPs.”
Many municipalities also do not have electricity distribution systems that have been technically evaluated to clarify their readiness to support new electricity generation and energy trading.
To overcome these challenges, the Western Cape government will work closely with the elected municipalities in the first phase of the project to identify pioneering energy projects and develop a roadmap to roll out the projects.
The lessons learned in this phase will be applied to future projects in other municipalities.
While this project should enable municipalities to buffer residents and businesses from the impacts of load shedding, they will still continue to be connected to the national grid.
This is needed because municipalities will not be able to meet 100% of their energy demand through renewable energy at this stage.
“We will also work closely with the national government to explore how the new energy regulations could lead to renewable energy generation projects within municipalities in the Western Cape,” said Maynier.