BLSA boss Mavuso punts renewables to fix power crisis

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Busi Mavuso, Business Leadership SA CEO.
Busi Mavuso, Business Leadership SA CEO.

South Africa must diversify sources of electricity to include an increased uptake of renewable energy in dealing with the current power crisis.

This is according to Busi Mavuso, Business Leadership SA CEO, who says the country has the right ingredients to tackle the growing energy crisis, but must act fast to rein in the challenge.

In her weekly letter, Mavuso says SA is suffering severe power outages, which have seen Eskom implement a punishing power cuts schedule.

The power utility has been struggling with maintaining a steady power supply and last week it heightened the power cuts, announcing stage six load-shedding.

Eskom, which supplies over 90% of SA’s electricity, is also in a severe financial crisis and is struggling to pay the interest on its massive debt out of the revenue it generates.

“We cannot rely on a single state utility any longer. We have known this for some time and had we acted more vigorously sooner, experiences like last week could have been avoided,” says Mavuso.

“We have the right ingredients – the private sector can now build plants of up to 100MW without a licence. The renewable energy independent power producers programme can procure far larger power production. Within a matter of years, we could substantially diversify the producers of electricity in South Africa.”

Mavuso’s call comes as South Africa is witnessing an upswing in renewable energy consumption, as local businesses and households seek alternative sources for affordable and uninterrupted power supply.

She notes there is acceleration in private producers registering new plants with the National Electricity Regulator of SA, which she says is a “positive sign that red tape has been removed from the process of private generation”.

“The regulator has so far approved 18 amid an ‘avalanche’ of applications. The last approvals were done in 19 days from receipt of the application.

“The signs are clear then that the future electricity market will be a diverse one. And in that scenario, industrial action at one producer does not necessarily result in load-shedding.

“I suspect that those on strike [at Eskom] foresee that future and the effort to extract higher wage concessions was driven by the knowledge that one day it will be impossible to hold the country to ransom.

“There is still a way to go to a vibrant energy future. Eskom must complete the unbundling of a separate system operator, one that will be able to buy electricity for the grid from the cheapest sources, only one of which will be Eskom.

“We need to put in place clear regulations and processes to facilitate wheeling through the grid – the process by which an electricity producer in one location can sell to customers in other locations through the grid. These additional steps will accelerate the rate at which private producers will enter the market.”

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19 Aug
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