Long, cold winter waiting for South Africans

It is going to be a very cold winter, and South Africans are going to have to endure load-shedding, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha says.

Speaking to Biznews on Wednesday, Mantshantsha said they are doing everything possible to limit load-shedding. This is, however, not enough.

“The reality is that we will keep coming to the people of South Africa and announce load-shedding,” he said.

“It is a dead certainty now that throughout this winter we will continue to have load shedding, and we may only see some reprieve — not total elimination — during the last quarter of the year.”

Load-shedding has been a regular occurrence in recent weeks and hit stage 4 on Wednesday afternoon after three more power station units broke down.

Many people pin their hopes on independent power producers to end load-shedding following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Thursday.

Ramaphosa announced that the government would lift the threshold for embedded electricity generation capacity from 1MW to 100MW.

This is a positive development that was widely welcomed by energy experts, but it is not an immediate fix.

Sikonathi Mantshantsha
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha

Speaking to ENCA, Mantshantsha said this is what Eskom has been asking for since December 2019 to ease pressure on the grid.

“This is a huge step and a very welcome development which will ease the pressure on Eskom,” he said.

He did, however, warn that it will not help to limit load-shedding over the next two years.

“It is going to take some time before any investments resulting from this reform start to deliver electricity.”

Mantshantsha explained that it takes a long time to finance and build new power generation plants, which is why it will take time to realise the benefits of the regulatory change.

Looking longer-term, he said South Africa should get an additional 5,000MW to 7,000MW from this development.

This additional capacity, together with other measures taken by the government to procure additional electricity, will bring relief within 2 to 3 years, he said.

Andre-de-Ruyter
Andre de Ruyter, Eskom CEO

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter was particularly upbeat about Ramaphosa’s announcement, saying this development will attract private investment to the electricity industry.

“I don’t see it as a threat. I see it as a natural evolution of the opening up and liberalisation of the electricity supply industry,” he said.

Commenting on the time frames of seeing new capacity coming online, De Ruyter was more bullish than Mantshantsha.

He said Vietnam did something similar a few years ago and was able to add 7,200MW to the grid within 18 months.

“I think this is a really significant move that could rapidly alleviate or generation capacity shortage,” he said.

Now read: Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter’s incredible achievement

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Long, cold winter waiting for South Africans