Government has announced a series of interventions aimed at solving the country’s worsening power crisis and easing the ongoing load shedding.
Through the Presidency, the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) on Saturday released a six-month update on progress in the implementation of the Energy Action Plan.
Among these are Eskom’s programme to buy power from companies with available generation capacity through a standard offer.
“The first contracts are expected to be signed in the coming weeks,” the Presidency said in a statement.
Another intervention contained in the document will see government departments cutting red tape and streamlining regulatory processes for energy projects. This will include reducing the timeframe for environmental authorisations and registration, while negotiations are underway to secure a potential 1 000 MW from neighbouring countries starting this year.
“The declining energy availability factor of Eskom’s fleet reflects the cumulative impact of historical underinvestment in maintenance and assets, exacerbated by flaws in the design of new power stations in the last decade,” the NECOM said.
To respond to the severe impact of load shedding on households, small businesses and the economy as a whole, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced measures in 2022 to improve the performance of existing power stations and add new generation capacity.
The NECOM, a body run by the President’s Office, was established to coordinate government’s response and ensure swift implementation of the plan.
President Ramaphosa convened a special meeting over load shedding as Eskom implemented extended Stage 6 load shedding. He cancelled his travel plans to Davos, Switzerland, in order to deal with the crisis.
According to the Presidency, the Head of State has also engaged with a wide range of stakeholders and leaders to ensure a collective response to this national challenge.
Steps taken to follow through on the commitments announced by the President include:
– Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act has been amended to remove the licensing requirement for generation projects, which will significantly accelerate private investment.
– Since the licensing threshold was first raised to 100 MW, the pipeline of private sector projects has grown to more than 100 projects with over 9 000 MW of capacity. The first of these large-scale projects is expected to connect to the grid by the end of this year.
– The NECOM has instructed departments to cut red tape and streamline regulatory processes for energy projects, including reducing the timeframe for environmental authorisations to 57 days from over 100 days. Reduce the registration process from four months to three weeks and ensure that grid connection approvals are provided within six months.
– Project agreements for 19 projects from Bid Window 5 and six projects from Bid Window 6 of the renewable energy programme, representing 2 800 MW of new capacity. These projects will soon proceed to construction.
– A new ministerial determination has been published for 14 771 MW of new generation capacity from wind, solar and battery storage to accelerate further bid windows.
– An additional 300 MW has been imported through the Southern African Power Pool, and negotiations are underway to secure a potential 1 000 MW from neighbouring countries starting this year.
– Eskom has developed and launched a programme to purchase power from companies with available generation capacity through a standard offer. The first contracts are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
– A team of independent experts has been established to work closely with Eskom to diagnose the problems at poorly performing power stations and take action to improve plant performance.
In addition, the Presidency said six power stations have been identified for particular focus over the coming months through a comprehensive Generation Recovery Plan.
President Ramaphosa said: “South Africans are right to demand immediate action to address the devastating impact of load shedding on our lives and the economy.
“The Energy Action Plan provides a clear way out of this crisis. We do not need any new plans – we are focusing on implementing this plan fully and effectively to achieve energy security for all South Africans.”
The President has further instructed law enforcement agencies to ramp up efforts to protect electricity infrastructure, while government has committed to deal with criminal syndicates and address theft and sabotage at several power stations.
The Presidency said addressing the ongoing shortfall in electricity remains government’s single most important priority.
Source: South African Government News Agency