Twenty months ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “Eskom is in crisis and the risks it poses to South Africa are great. It could severely damage our economic and social development ambitions. We need to take bold decisions and decisive action. The consequences may be painful, but they will be even more devastating if we delay. In responding to this crisis, we are informed by the need to minimise any adverse economic cost to the consumer and taxpayer.”
South Africa has now had significant electricity load shedding for three consecutive years and record load shedding in 2020. This has contributed to the sovereign downgrade of the country and a further loss in industrial and investment confidence in our country. This begs the question: What will it take for South Africa to first have a year without load shedding, followed by a decade of adequate uninterrupted electricity supply?
Our hospitals, mines, schools, restaurants, universities, municipalities, homeowners, factories and farms deserve better answers than “load shedding will continue until 2021” and “we continue to ask South Africans to reduce their electricity demand” as if invoking a patriotic duty.
The Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 signals five important and complex shifts for the national electricity system:
Executing these five shifts will require an extraordinary national effort to co-ordinate their execution by many role players and through complex approval and regulatory processes. Eskom will become very much the receiver of arrangements made by Mineral Resources and Energy and Finance/Treasury.
Blackouts and future load shedding can stem from four causes: Shortage of generation capacity, variable generation from renewable power, failure of the national transmission system, or instability of the national power system. For South Africa to have first a year, then a decade, without load shedding will require the country to achieve all of the following 12 key deliverables [with the accountable parties in brackets]:
Each of these deliverables is a major and complex project by international standards. Non-delivery on any single one of the above will result in continued load shedding and/or regional blackouts. Does the South African government [Mineral Resources and Energy, Public Enterprises, Finance/Treasury, Eskom] have the institutional capacity to deliver on these requirements?
I suggest there be clarity in the South African Cabinet about which minister is actually accountable for restoring confidence in electricity supply in SA. Who warns the president when it is seriously off track?
It appears to me deliverables 1, 5 and 12 are already at risk of not being delivered at all, let alone on time. The time has come to deliver on the roadmap for Eskom and the Integrated Resource Plan. DM
"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule; not to bewail; not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." ~ Baruch Spinoza