SA forms task force to develop energy strategy

South Africa created a task force to develop an integrated energy strategy that will ensure a consistent electricity supply in a country plagued by chronic blackouts, a ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

South Africa’s state-owned utility Eskom has been rationing electricity since early last year when the national grid nearly collapsed, forcing mines to shut for five days and costing Africa’s biggest economy billions of dollars.

Bheki Khumalo, a spokesperson at the Department of Minerals and Energy, said the ministry had called a meeting with all the stakeholders, including the government, industry, Eskom and the unions, earlier on Thursday to discuss the way forward.

“We have agreed to establish an energy forum that will look at how to ensure power security in South Africa,” Khumalo told Reuters.

The forum might be modelled on a coal working group set up by Eskom last year to solve the power crisis.

Together the disparate members of the working group were able to swiftly move to provide and transport the emergency coal supplies needed by Eskom.

Coal industry sources have suggested the government should take the lessons learnt in the cooperation across the sector during the power crisis and use it to develop an overall energy strategy, involving all the players.

“This will be a government-led process but involving all the stakeholders ... to ensure we have an integrated strategy for the country that prevents power cuts from happening again,” Khumalo said.

He said a small working group was selected during the meeting that will draft the terms of reference for the energy forum to be presented to all the players when they reconvene in 10 days.

The strategy could be the blueprint for a new energy ministry that might be formed after elections scheduled for April 22.

South Africa’s Minister of Minerals and Energy Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica said earlier this week she expects her department to be split into two separate ministries if the African National Congress wins the polls.

Having two separate ministries would allow for more time and focus to be devoted to each, especially to tackle a crisis like last year’s, she said. - Reuters

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