Cape Town says it’s ready to leave Eskom and load shedding behind – but needs national government to catch up

 ·20 Jan 2021
Cape Town at night

Cape Town’s executive mayor Dan Plato has slammed Eskom and national government for the latest round of load shedding which ended on Monday and effectively lasted for five days.

Plato said that the power cuts have been ‘absolutely destructive’ amid a time of Covid-19, damaging lockdown regulations, and the extreme economic woes of South Africa.

“In October 2020, amendments to the electricity regulations were finally gazetted which could pave the way for municipalities to source power independently from Independent Power Producers (IPPs),” he said.

“The city calls on national government to expedite the processes that will enable the procurement from independent producers to become a reality so that municipalities such as Cape Town can go forth and start breaking the sole reliance on Eskom for power provision.

“Time is of the essence. We cannot continue to go on like this.”

Plato said that the city has been preparing for a future where more affordable and cleaner energy can be procured by municipalities.  He said that the city’s plans includes building and procuring its own renewable generation capacity.

“We implore the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to provide clarity on the process as soon as possible so that we can move forward with the execution of our plans.”

Building power

Plato said that the city also hopes to have a photovoltaic (PV) plant (solar-powered) on the ground by approximately 2022/3 if all goes according to plan.

But with the current Municipal Finance Management Act and Energy Regulation Act regulations it could take up to five years from when a determination is provided to having the first power from an IPP in its grid, he said.

We are in discussions with the national IPP office to assist us in developing a framework for a municipal procurement programme for cities.

“We are also procuring the services of a legal firm to establish the contractual terms of the power purchase agreement to ensure its compliance with legislation, national regulatory frameworks and the city’s policy landscape.”

However, Plato said that clarification is needed on the practical implementation of the new amended regulations. Including:

  • The status of own generation (municipal generation) projects is unclear, with the regulations referring only to buying and procurement of electricity and not to own generation.
  • Municipalities need to understand how the regulations will be implemented within the context of the current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, which is fully allocated up to 2024.
  • It is not clear what timelines will apply to the processing of municipal applications by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, especially the time for review of feasibility studies.

“The city has always maintained that local governments have the constitutional power and obligation to procure renewable energy and this is necessary to move away from the sole reliance on Eskom for energy supply,” Plato said.

He added that the city is proactively setting up all necessary requirements for such IPP procurement programmes should it be confirmed.

“As mentioned, the City could start doing so within the next three years, but we do not control the process and would be dependent on the national government processes. All of these efforts show we are ready for the diversification of our energy mix for cleaner, more affordable and secure energy.”

Read: Eskom to cut Joburg load shedding hours into smaller blocks

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