South Africa turns to China, Germany and Vietnam to help end load shedding

 ·19 Mar 2023

South Africa’s new electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, says he is looking to other nations to address the energy crisis.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Ramokgopa said that he was reaching out to other countries to learn how they overcame their energy crises.

Earlier this week, he met with the Chinese ambassador to discuss a possible collaboration to end load shedding.

This collaboration would include sourcing technical expertise, training young people in regard to solar power installation, introducing micro-grids and sourcing emergency power.

“We are speaking to the Germans, Americans, World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and of course we met with the Chinese ambassador, and it’s essentially to know, of all of these countries, where is the area expertise, and where can we get the quickest assistance,” he said.

The minister will also speak to the Vietnamese ambassador, as the country dealt with blackouts by installing 9,000MW of rooftop solar in the span of 12 months.

Ramokgopa’s comments come at a time when load shedding has been eased, with load shedding suspended from o5hoo to 16hoo today, 19 March.

As reported by City Press, the electricity minister said that solving the energy crisis was incredibly important for other ministers involved with Eskom.

Shortly after being sworn in as a cabinet member, Ramokgopa met with finance minister Enoch Godongwana, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, and the minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe.

Ramakgopa said that all three ministers agreed that load shedding is urgent and offered support to the new minister by giving him the necessary resources to address the crisis.

He also said that all ministers have different responsibilities. Mantahse is responsible for the policy direction of minerals and resources – with electricity only a small part. At the same time, Gordhan is a shareholder representative who deals with the Eskom board regarding the utility’s performance and finances.

“I am at the level of implementation, I go to the plant; and at operational level, and make sure that the units are efficient. Working with the teams, [I ensure the efficiency of] engineering solutions,” he said.

Eskom recently saw an improvement in its power generation fleet.

Last week Thursday, the power utility reported that its six coal-fired power stations achieved an energy availability factor of 70%, which was last achieved in May 2022.

Despite still being early in progress, Eskom said that the recovery of the six power stations showed an overall positive trajectory.

Worsening crisis 

Although the performance of Eskom’s six coal-fired power stations improved last Thursday, Ramokgopa said that the same power stations were down to 40% the next day. 

“The fact that a monopoly issues a statement to celebrate” such a performance is “just an illustration of the crisis,” he said.

He added that outages could still get worse as electricity demand increases in winter and the dire energy situation could deteriorate even further.

Read: The Western Cape has a plan for a total blackout

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