Ekurhuleni, the industrial hub of more than three million people to the east of Johannesburg, may have a head start in the race between South African cities to buy their own power to alleviate crippling outages imposed by the national utility.
A program to procure as much as 700 megawatts of electricity that began in 2016 is coming to fruition, with one funder saying a project to build a 41-megawatt solar plant at a cost of about R1 billion ($64 million) will begin by the end of this year.
“We have secured the equity, and once that closes we can finalize debt and basically start overnight,” said Justin Naidoo, the chief executive officer of African Growth Partners, which is working with five independent power producers. “We will be ready to start building the project before the end of the year.”
South Africa has been subjected to intermittent planned power outages since 2008 because Eskom Holdings, the state power utility, can’t meet demand.
Cape Town and Durban, the second-and third-biggest cities, have asked for proposals for companies to provide them with power and Johannesburg, the biggest, plans to do the same.
In addition to reducing power cuts, the cities will also primarily source power from renewable sources, meaning that there will be less impact on global warming.