Gauteng’s R1.2 billion plan to stop load shedding – including a massive new solar farm and smart meters for homes

 ·21 Feb 2023

The provincial government of Gauteng has announced that it will release R1.2 billion towards the energy crisis alongside various other initiatives aimed at mitigating load shedding.

Other considerations include the installation of smart meters for heavy electricity consumers, with the aim of maintaining responsible electricity use.

Speaking at the Gauteng State of the Province Address last night (20 February), the premier Panyaza Lesufi said that it is important the province tackles the energy crisis head-on if it wishes to remain the economic hub of South Africa.

He said that in a few weeks, the province would appoint six developers who would commence with the construction of an 800MW solar farm in Merafong City Municipality. The province is also set to advertise a call for proposed alternative supplies of energy.

Lesfui said that a handful of entities, including commercial banks and other financial institutions, have already made mention of future partnerships.

According to Lesufi, the provincial government also plans to engage with the City of Johannesburg to allow for the use of City Power and the City of Tshwane for a partnership to expand existing energy infrastructure and generate more power.

On top of that, government buildings across the province can expect to be upgraded with the installation of rooftop solar being prioritised, especially in hospitals and schools.

Although various plans were stated, little detail regarding a set timeline was provided.

Lesufi did, however, make mention of one specific date, 1 April, which is set to mark the rollout of rooftop solar for hospitals and, in partnership with municipalities, smart meter installations at homes.

Little detail regarding the metering system and how energy use will be tracked was given; however, the City of Joburg and the City of Tshwane have both previously expressed their intent to make smart metering the norm, with the latter planning on moving all customers to prepaid meters.

Regarding municipalities, Lesufi said that the provincial government is looking specifically into intervening with the City of Ekhurleni’s electricity debt.

Gauteng is not alone in its shift toward being more energy independent; the Western Cape, during its State of the Province Address, also outlined various initiatives to tackle the energy crisis, including R1.1 billion in investment and a massive push for backup generator procurement.

Eskom is redeemable

The electricity deficit in Gauteng is only expected to increase before it gets any better as the national power utility Eskom continues to slip into deeper decay.

During his speech, Lesufi welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national state of disaster over the energy crisis and cemented his belief that Eskom could be fixed.

He said that through the support of the national government, Eskom can be rescued: “it can bring electricity back.”

Despite the optimistic outlook, energy analysts and figureheads at large have pointed to there being no short-term load shedding relief on the horizon.

On 20 February, Eskom said that it is in the process of reviewing load shedding schedules, which currently only go up to stage 8.

Read: Eskom planning for stage 8 load shedding

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