old systems, corruption or mismanagement, who or what is to blame?

The government’s energy crisis plan, which aims to boost energy security and abolish load-shedding, was unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2022.

The present gap between demand and supply for generation is between 4,000 and 6,000 MW.

The Business Unity South Africa’s planned initiatives, which were revealed a week before Ramaphosa’s, broadly aligned with the government energy plan revisions. The most important of these initiatives was to develop a program to encourage the efficient use of energy in order to reduce demand by 2 600MW and rationalize the onerous red tape that prevents private sector investment in generation capacity.

South Africa plans to purchase more power from its neighbors, namely Botswana and Zambia, in order to address the megawatt gap. In order to improve coordination and strengthen stakeholder involvement, a National Energy Crisis Committee comprised of important decision-makers in the energy industry has been established.

The committee has prioritized measures including amending the New Generation Capacity Regulations to permit towns to independently acquire power and reviving the independent power procurement program for renewable energy.

In this regard, strong commitment and transparent governing mechanisms that will produce favorable outcomes and secure energy provision for all South Africans are essential for changes and the administrative environment to be efficient and effective.

Alternative energy sources and the Eskom debt crisis must also be thoroughly considered, along with the changes and repercussions.

A good place to start is by removing the bureaucracy that prevents the private sector from investing in generation capacity. Nevertheless, engaging in independent production without having sufficient vetting procedures to support Eskom’s electricity supply could be expensive.

For instance, more than 60% of an emergency power tender over a 20-year purchase agreement, worth at R218 million to Karpowership, was granted by the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which sought to fill the present short-term energy supply. The plan was for Karpowership, a Turkish company that provides gas-fired, ship-mounted power, to begin providing 1 220MW to Eskom last month.

However, after receiving concerns from environmentalists about its effects on fisheries and local ecosystems as well as its potential greenhouse gas emissions, the department of environmental affairs rejected the initial application.

The approval procedure has been put on hold as a result of this dismissal, which has delayed the project and drawn attention to the insufficient environmental vetting process that gave rise to the concerns.

Furthermore, DNG Energy, a South African-based energy firm, accused Karpowership and a government official of engaging in corruption. It stated that Powergroup SA, one of Karpowership’s local partners, had contacted them looking for a bribe and promised to ensure DNG secured the contract in exchange.

In the midst of seeking to implement an energy plan with fewer bureaucratic requirements, the Karpowership tale brings to light some of the long-standing governance challenges that continue to plague the department of mineral resources and energy. Given this, giving the department the authority to launch a second Eskom, as Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has suggested, would seem foolish.

Many people are in favor of using the SAPP agreement to import power from Botswana and Zambia, but decision-makers must exercise prudence.

The Southern African Development Community’s 12 member states’ national electrical firms collaborate under the name SAPP. It is acknowledged that using regional energy integration and power pooling to address an evenly distributed power supply to fulfill demand is an economical and suitable solution.

However, the efficient operation of power pools depends on strong and reliable grid interconnections, sufficient producing capacity, an appropriate legal framework for international electricity trades, as well as local dispute resolution procedures.

One of the most important urgent changes to the energy plan is to draw more power from SAPP.

The pool’s major market, South Africa, will require 52 388 MW in total by 2020, or a minimum of 31 470 MW of that amount.

According to media accounts from November, significant power outages in Zambia had an impact on South Africa’s power supply and ultimately the entire power pool, resulting in a loss of 1,000 MW. To put it into perspective, that would essentially mean that about 33 000 families per day or roughly 1000 households per month (assuming a monthly household consumption of 900 kWh) would lose access to electricity (assuming a daily household consumption of 30kWh).

Initial studies indicated that the disturbances were not directly related to breakdowns of the interconnected electricity infrastructure in Zambia but rather were produced externally. Clearly, as Eskom prepares to take more power from it, the power pool is suffering its own operational problems and disturbances that need to be properly monitored and probed.

In order to do this, the SAPP 2021 annual report listed a few of the steps taken to lessen these system disturbances. These included replacing insulators, relocating bird nests, clearing vegetation from important line paths, and performing repairs and maintenance on generation and transmission equipment.

Eskom’s debt is still an open question, despite the emergency energy plan being in full swing.

In the medium-term budget policy statement that is due next month, the Treasury is expected to suggest a viable solution to the debt problem.

According to reports, the finance ministry will bail out the energy company and assume a share of the R396-billion debt as part of a strategy to improve and strengthen the utility’s financial position.

The debt that municipalities owe to Eskom, on the other hand, increased from R44.8 billion in March to R49.1 billion in July, a rise of roughly R5 billion in just four months. Financial experts concur that the debt-transfer plan is a positive beginning, but it won’t be sufficient to address Eskom’s governance problems. Operational improvements are critically needed and necessary.

Key interventions were suggested in a 2019 report by the Centre for Development and Enterprise to address operational and capacity issues that are still relevant today.

Renewable energy sources for the national grid are one of the primary solutions for the generation capacity problem. While a variety of elements must be taken into account before any system can include variable renewable energy sources, it is still feasible to have numerous tiny, decentralized wind and solar generators.

Additionally, a network of wind and solar power facilities spread out across the nation could readily meet home demand. Open-cycle gas turbines that can be turned off when not needed could be used to supplement these. It’s clear that the emergency energy plan is seriously committed to making this a reality.

Given that 2000MW of solar and wind power have been linked to the grid through the program, the plan includes provisions to restart the renewable energy procurement program.

The three-year-old official electrical plan is out-of-date, and its execution is two years behind schedule. In South Africa, the use of renewable energy is advantageous, especially in light of the favorable climate.

Finally, the energy crisis plan has outlined essential measures that would help guarantee a sustainable energy supply for the entire country of South Africa. The National Energy Crisis Committee must make sure independent power producers abide by all environmental and social standards within the framework of streamlined red tape procedures, for the plan to be effectively implemented.

To prevent further project delays while still fostering an atmosphere where more local manufacturing is appropriately prioritized, a delicate balance must be struck. Through the creation of a clean energy mix that is sustainable and beneficial to South Africa’s economic development, this will enable upstream modernization and possibly a brighter future for energy in South Africa.