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Enoch Mgijima Municipality eyes solar power to solve its electricity crisis

Enoch Mgijima Municipality eyes solar power to solve its electricity crisis
The Enoch Mgijima Municipality is looking at a plan providing an alternative to Eskom. (Photo: Alex Kraus / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With winter approaching, the Eastern Cape’s Enoch Mgijima municipality plans to solve its electricity problems by moving to solar power.

Facing constant electricity outages due to dilapidated and old infrastructure, the Enoch Mgijima Municipality in Komani in the Eastern Cape has a chance to end years of struggle and use solar power.

The town has had electricity problems daily since November 2022, ranging from blown cables to issues at the power station and a burnt transformer.

Recently, NKM2 Engineering and Construction representative Khathu Mphaphuli made a presentation to the municipality, proposing a partnership with the municipality to install a 100MWp smart mini-grid solar PV station.

According to Mphaphuli, they only want the municipality to give them land where they will install the station — all other expenses will be borne by the company.

Enoch Mgijima Municipality employees joining a cable which burst last week connecting electricity to Komani Park, Sandringham, Army Base and a portion of New Rest. (Photo: Supplied)

“The municipality can benefit from this… that can be discussed. There is no clear guideline by the government on how to do the project. For us, the municipality can do the environmental impact assessment (EIA) so that the project can be fast-tracked,” he said.

He said a signed memorandum of understanding was needed before they can start.

“The advantage of using the solar plant is that they are quick to build. The design has been completed and we just need to customise it. The plants can also be customised to provide any amount of energy…  it can be 100MW, 30MW or even 40MW depending on the energy demand. We also have storage capacity; the municipality can sell electricity to other municipalities and also Eskom if it makes more than it needs,” he said. 

“Also, this project will create about 200 jobs during construction and also 60 permanent jobs during the operation of the plant,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Why an Eastern Cape municipality that owes Eskom R890m cannot foot its electricity bill

Mphaphuli said they were working with a company from China which has been constructing similar plants across the world.  

“The plant will also have battery storage to ensure a continuous supply of electricity. To build a plant like this of 100MW with a big battery storage, you are looking at about R2.5-billion. So we have the funds available for these kinds of projects and all we need is just a piece of land where we can do the project,” he said.

He said the venture would allow for public and private partnerships where the municipality can be a partner in the project or have a partner which will exit after a certain period.

Council Speaker Noluthando Nqabisa said the plan was ideal for the municipality as it provided an alternative to Eskom.

“As long as it does not want money from us, because we don’t have money, but if it says we only have to look for a piece of land then it’s something we can listen to,” she said.

Enoch Mgijima Municipality workers repair a cable connecting Nkululekweni and Melton Gardens electricity. (Photo: Supplied)

Nqabisa said for the public-private partnership (PPP) to commence they needed to identify land and do an environmental impact assessment.

“Also, we need to advertise this so that all those who have the same idea and don’t want funds can apply. The company and management will meet to discuss the issue of PPP and the memorandum of understanding. As a council we want this, it is going to create jobs and bring relief,” she said. 

Councillor Amzisile Titus said: “If it was up to me, I would actually give them the land tomorrow so that these people can come here to electrify our communities. We have illegal connections in our town and I think this will bring about a huge intervention and solution to the problems we are facing.

“We need to sign this within this year so that we can get the ball rolling.” DM/OBP

Absa OBP

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