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Western Cape maps out end to power cuts following De Ruyter’s warning of ‘big trouble ahead’

Western Cape maps out end to power cuts following De Ruyter’s warning of ‘big trouble ahead’
Western Cape premier Alan Winde. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg)

South Africa’s only opposition-led province plans to facilitate the construction of almost 6 gigawatts of power generation capacity to counter nationwide electricity shortages and bolster the regional economy.

The Western Cape aims to add as much as 750 megawatts of supply by 2025 and to reach 5,700MW by 2035, premier Alan Winde said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Cape Town office on Wednesday. That should be sufficient to meet demand as the provincial economy expands.

Eskom, which generates more than 90% of the nation’s electricity, has been forced to implement rotational blackouts daily since 2008, with outages now at record levels. The ruling ANC has announced emergency measures and declared a State of Disaster to help it address the crisis, but there’s no sign of it abating in the near term.

Winde met Eskom’s former chief executive, André de Ruyter, shortly after he resigned in December, to seek advice over how the province should approach energy provision.

“He said you’ve got to become independent as quickly as possible,” Winde recalled. The outgoing CEO didn’t provide much detail, but said “there’s big trouble ahead and, you know, do what you can”, the premier said.

Winde has put a team together to expedite larger generation projects and intends on helping municipalities to boost their power supply with a budget that will be announced in mid-March. The World Bank is providing an adviser, Karen Breytenbach, who previously led South Africa’s independent power producer office, to help shape the plans.

One of the key challenges for South Africa’s power system is its inadequate transmission grid. A shortage of connections meant that not a single wind project was selected in the national government’s latest award of contracts to private producers to supply additional electricity.

Read in Daily Maverick:New law planned to accelerate power capacity in South Africa

The Western Cape government has yet to determine which transmission options – Eskom infrastructure, municipal grids and micro grids – will work best and in what combination, according to Winde. The province’s plans will have to take into account its growing population, which is projected to hit eight million in the next six years, up from 7.2 million currently.



The ANC has targeted a $250-billion green hydrogen industry by 2050 as part of long-term plans to reduce the nation’s reliance on coal, create a new export industry and use cleaner technologies. Those plans include reviving a mothballed ArcelorMittal steel plant in Saldanha, along the coast north of Cape Town, to use the fuel.

Read in Daily Maverick:25 years in the making – the real reasons we have rolling blackouts according to De Ruyter

Sasol has said it would potentially accelerate its own plans to develop and export green hydrogen to meet growing demand from Europe.

A green hydrogen industry, which is dependent on the development of renewable energy, will have to benefit the local economy, according to Winde. Eskom estimates that the nation requires 53 gigawatts of clean energy capacity by 2032 to make up for coal plant closures and reach a secure level of supply.

“You can’t have hydrogen exports to Europe and load shedding in South Africa,” Winde said. “I mean, the citizens will just burn everything down.” DM/Bloomberg

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.


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  • Johan Buys says:

    Sorting 6GW private solar and wind for 4GW demand is relatively simple and cheap.

    Challenge 1 : government is going to make transmission difficult as they own that network even if WCape out-competes on procuring the power. Besides getting NCape solar for example into WCape, also need to move that around within WCape. What odds government allows WCape to procure its transmission network but then operate it outside the System Operator?

    Challenge 2 : smoothing out 6GW renewables cost-effectively without own pumped storage will be hard. Steenbras is a small joke in comparison to what would be needed : at least 2GW and 40h capacity to be able to be assured of 4GW supply. I’m not sure we have the geography for that.

    Challenge 3 : unless add a VERY big battery energy storage system distributed around the WCape to help the pumped storage buffer and network routing problems, one would need large land-based natural gas standby power stations.

    Challenge 4 : within very soon, everybody that can will have done their own resilience with solar plus battery plus ice plus generators. WCape can end up where Eskom is headed – that all the best (paying) clients are largely gone. But that can also be an opportunity if WCape works with those behind-the-meter large plants.

    Politics of it will be the hardest part. The technical and financial issues are solvable. Politicians should be careful about promises that they know that they can’t keep.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Living between Cape Town and Durban weve noticed that loadshedding schedules are 3 times worse in the Cape than in Durban. Is this possibly because the Cape is being punished for being a DA run region or perhaps because “a Boer maak a long term plan..” and it doesn’t include a back hander for the ANC and their mates!

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      In the Cape – Seapoint, Hout bay and Newlands have sometimes had up to 10hrs of loadshedding in 24 hrs. Where we live in Durban we occasionally get 2 hrs of loadshedding in 24hrs. I’m not complaining mind, but it it is weird that there is such a disparity?

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        While Lansdowne does not fall into the three areas you have identified, we also have had regular sheddings of 10 hours per day ! I suspect several other areas have experienced the same . It’s part of the “Better Life for All” campaign … I guess !

    • Colleen Dardagan says:

      The reason Durban has less load shedding than anyone else is due to the flooding last year and the impact it had on the infrastructure in the metro. We only get loadshedding after stage 4 because the infrastructure cannot handle the pressure on ongoing loadshedding. Pay attention folks!

  • C vS says:

    Misleading headline. There is no “mapping out” in the article, only these words: “The Western Cape aims to add as much as 750 megawatts of supply by 2025 and to reach 5,700MW by 2035”

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      And … should the WC succeed in this endeavour, be sure the flow of indigent migrants (in the main), to this clime will escalate enormously !

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