/ 17 February 2023

Gauteng looking for an energy mix to prevent load-shedding

Eskom Getty
The government has proposed that allocations to Eskom through the debt relief programme be cut by R2 billion, citing the power utility’s failure to dispose of its finance company. (Getty Images)

Using batteries that store energy in combination with renewable energy can decrease the pressure on Eskom’s energy grid, according to energy expert Brian Mantlana.

Mantlana, a member of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission and a researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, was speaking at the  Gauteng Energy Expo on Thursday in Johannesburg.

Although the country is moving away from fossil fuels, there must be a balance between the move to cleaner energy and the economic outlook of the country, he told representatives from municipalities, financial institutions and energy researchers, who discussed how Gauteng can reduce dependency on Eskom. 

Matlana was presenting the commission’s view of the energy transition and how it would help recover the energy availability factor and end load-shedding.

He added that investment in grid upgrades was required to support the addition of renewable energy. “The government should also support public, private and household energy generation and storage including through tariff structures.”

Matlana said the energy transition provides opportunities for the country in many ways, including the increased need for minerals used in clean energy technologies that can be exported, including copper.

For Motlana, policy reform that supported municipalities to collect revenue for electricity and provide a reliable energy supply was essential.

The expo comes after Eskom said load-shedding would continue for about two years because of the fragile state of power stations. Load-shedding harms businesses and this has exacerbated unemployment levels.

Gauteng’s new ‘gold’ rush

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said it was important that Gauteng, the economic hub of South Africa, was protected from the devastating economic effects of load-shedding and the province’s aim was to urgently get power from various sources.

“Those institutions that are at the forefront of rendering services to our people, we need to assist them; we need these institutions to have the energy that can be provided. Where we are as a local government, we have reached a stage where any form of energy must be brought to the table, any form of energy must be presented to us.

“The plan is to procure the best products available in the market within the shortest possible time. We also want to link up investors with those who have renewable energy projects in the province,” he said.

“There is an overwhelming appetite from the government to invest in the new generation. Just like the rush to find gold in Gauteng, the new rush is to find a solution to the energy challenge we face.”

He added that the interventions will also contribute “towards our strategy to shift from heavy reliance on the grid to a province with diversified energy sources that include renewables and other forms of energy”..

Government support 

Matlana said the national government should help local government adjust the electricity tariff plan and improve its basic free electricity policies for poor and marginalised people.

The policy currently provides 50 kilowatts electricity to poor households. 

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government would appoint an electricity minister in the presidency to ensure swift implementation of solutions to prevent load-shedding.

In his State of the Nation address, Ramaphosa said the government is considering additional mechanisms to address the rising cost of electricity. 

“These include measures such as helping households and small businesses install solar power and energy-saving devices, supporting households with rechargeable lights, and working with learners to catch up where load-shedding interrupts lessons.”

Western Cape’s footprint

The Western Cape has called on the mineral resources and energy department to allow it to buy electricity from independent renewable energy power producers.

In September 2021, the Western Cape government launched a R13 million fund to help municipalities in the province prepare for the adoption of renewable energy projects.

Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa