President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a set of new emergency measures to deal with South Africa’s current electricity crisis.

During his address on Monday night, Ramaphosa compared the energy crisis to the battle against Covid-19, and urged South Africans to do their bit by installing solar power, avoiding illegal connections and using electricity sparingly.

The crisis that we are facing requires that we should take bold, courageous and decisive action to close the electricity gap. As a government, we are announcing a number of interventions to overcome the immediate crisis,” he said.

Ramaphosa acknowledged that the recent bout of Stage 6 rolling blackouts had left many South Africans fed up, seeing as it has also been more than a decade without a reliable energy source. He promised that the new measures would transform the electricity sector and all additional measures will achieve long-term energy security and end load shedding for good. 

The measure includes:

  • Improving the performance of Eskom’s existing fleet of power stations by seeing that Eskom increases its budget allocated for critical maintenance over the next 12 months
  • Boosting the recruitment of skilled workers, including former senior Eskom plant managers and engineers, from the private sector
  • Cutting red tape that has made it difficult for Eskom to buy maintenance spares and equipment within the required period to effect repairs
  • Improve logistics to ensure that diesel-fired turbines are supplied in a timely fashion;
  • Allow Eskom to buy excess power from independent private producers;
  • Import more power from countries in the region;
  • Implement a programme to incentivise the efficient use of power to cut demand by 600 megawatts;
  • Easing local content requirements so that renewable-power projects awarded in the so-called Bid Window 5 can go ahead;
  • Boosting the size of the sixth bid window and expediting further rounds;
  • Announce a plan to deal with Eskom’s debt before October.
While there is a strong focus on addressing the current energy shortfall, the president stressed that South Africa needs long-term solutions to add more capacity to the grid. To achieve this, he said that new energy projects need to be brought online.

Ramaphosa said the government intends to “accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity”, which would include ensuring that all projects from Bid Window 5 of the renewable energy programme can start construction on schedule. This includes “taking a pragmatic approach” to the local content requirements for these projects and prioritising the need to build new capacity as quickly as possible.

They will also be doubling the amount of new generation capacity procured through Bid Window 6 for wind and solar power from 2,600MW to 5,200MW.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe will issue a determination for the remaining allocations in the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 and will open further bid windows “on an expedited basis”.

The President also announced that the government would  “massively increase” private investment in generation capacity by removing the licensing threshold for embedded generation completely and tabling special legislation in Parliament on an expedited basis to address the legal and regulatory obstacles to new generation capacity for a limited period;

They will also be waiving or streamlining certain regulatory requirements and Eskom will be enabled to expand power lines and substations “without needing to get environmental authorisation in areas of low and medium sensitivity” and within the strategic electricity corridors.

Additionally, Ramaphosa said the government would enable and incentivise businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar by seeing that Eskom develops rules and a pricing structure — known as a “feed-in tariff” — for all commercial and residential installations on its network that would enable homeowners and businesses to sell surplus power to Eskom.

The President concluded by saying that his administration would attempt to “fundamentally transform” the electricity sector and position it for future sustainability.

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