Electricity minister eyes 66GW of renewable energy

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 07 Aug 2023
Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

As government ramps up efforts to address South Africa’s energy crisis, 66GW of renewable energy is in the pipeline.

So said Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity, who pointed out that at least half of the actions set out in the Energy Action Plan (EAP) are either completed or on track.

He briefed the media on progress made on the one-year implementation of the EAP on Sunday.

The EAP was introduced by president Cyril Ramaphosa in July last year. It thrashes out work that must be done by Eskom and government to ensure load-shedding is reduced and eventually eradicated, and to ensure energy security for the country in the future.

Over the years, power utility Eskom has been struggling to fully supply electricity to the country and has been implementing ongoing power cuts to avoid total grid collapse.

Eskom supplies SA’s electricity needs largely from coal-fired power stations. However, poor maintenance at the facilities has been cited as the biggest reason for the power cuts.

Amid the power shortages, government has been steadily adding renewable energy to the national grid, with independent power producers driving the move.

“About 56% of the work we are doing is either completed or on track. About eight of these actions that the president has set out in the Energy Action Plan we have completed. Twenty of these actions are on track, so essentially what that means, is that we are in keeping with the timelines we had set for ourselves,” Ramokgopa said.

“Twelve of these actions are delayed but progressing well. Of course, that is a dent because what we want is to be either ahead of time or on time. Eight of those are off-track and intervention is on the way…so we are missing our own targets that we set ourselves.”

According to the minister, all of the actions government is undertaking are underpinned by five interventions:

  • Fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply.
  • Enable and accelerate private investment in generation capacity.
  • Accelerate procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage.
  • Unleash businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar.
  • Fundamentally transform the electricity sector to achieve long-term energy security.

According to Ramokgopa, actions government has taken include sourcing additional capacity from neighbouring countries; 100MW has already been sourced from Mozambique, with an additional 600MW on the way.

The minister said breakdowns at Eskom power stations decreased from 17 000MW in May, to a 15 000MW average in the last week.

He pointed out that delays in returning broken units to service have come down from 2 000MW to 1 300MW during the past week.

Although these interventions are contributing greatly to the reduction of load-shedding, he noted, South Africans must also contribute by taking actions to reduce demand on the grid.

South Africans can contribute by switching off non-essential appliances, switching off geysers and pool pumps during peak periods and also switching off plugs and lights when not in use, he urged.

“Demand management is the fastest and most efficient way to reduce demand, particularly during peak hours. There are a few things that we can do and the aggregate of those things is going to lessen the intensity of the demand. It’s quicker because we don’t have to spend money, we don’t have to have new generation capacity [and] we don’t have to improve the energy availability factor.

“It has to do with our own behaviours and how we treat consumption in our own homes. It does not mean we need to deteriorate our quality of life. We can achieve both. Just by switching off lights [you are not using], you are switching on the South African economy.

“By reducing the amount of electricity that we use through simple actions, we can reduce load-shedding, while saving on energy bills.”