Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said he can’t preclude the possibility of South Africa being plunged into even worse load shedding this winter.
This could mean up to stage-8 rolling blackouts, with no electricity for up to 13 hours a day.
Speaking to the SABC’s Morning Live programme on Monday, Ramokgopa said load shedding at stage 7 or even 8 is possible and that the next 150 days are going to be “very tough”.
The minister said the electricity system is more fragile in colder weather. There is usually high demand, between 34GW and 37GW in winter, which Eskom will struggle to supply.
Ramokgopa was at pains to assure South Africans that they have every right to feel “frustrated, disappointed and angry” at the disruption caused by load shedding and suggested that government was moving urgently to resolve the issues.
He said financing was being arranged to roll out “gadgets” (smart meters) that’ll allow geysers to be switched off remotely, thus reducing demand. He assured the public that he is “not sitting on his hands but acting urgently while waiting for his appointment to come through”. In the meantime, he is in talks with the private sector to discuss alternative generation capacity and liaising with the finance minister, Enoch Godongwana, to facilitate the roll-out of battery storage and solar panels.
“So, you’re just a project manager, then? Who is giving instructions? You have to go to other ministers to get things implemented?” a Morning Live anchor pointedly asked the minister. “I’m confident that by the end of this week, the president will make that determination, but that’s not my space. I have been assigned to address the severity and frequency of load shedding,” Ramokgopa replied.
He mentioned that when demand peaks, the open-cycle gas turbines at the Ankerlig and Gourikwa plants are used. They burn a huge amount of diesel but even this is not sufficient to keep the lights on. Cabinet will have to be approached again for an “additional [funding] allocation to close the gap”.
“It’s exorbitant,” Ramokgopa said, “but think of the cost to the South African economy of higher stages of load shedding.”
Asked what’s new about the government’s approach to solving the generation crisis, the minister mentioned two new strategies, both to do with the power stations themselves.
The first is new legislative provisions to allow for speed when parts needed to be procured, so that the original equipment manufacturers can be approached directly without going through third parties so as to obviate the subsequent delays. He said, too, that there has been a “haemorrhaging“ of skills over time, which has meant that “experience and expertise needs to be replaced”.
“Unfortunately, part of the premature failures at Medupi and Kusile were due to corruption and sabotage. When they were stripped, it was found that the quality of the components installed were not the originals. But we have a promise from the courts that those failures will be addressed,” he said. “Sadly, we are all the casualties of corruption.” — © 2023 NewsCentral Media