Cities planning for load shedding ‘after the elections’

 ·9 May 2024

The City of Tshwane said it is moving forward with plans to secure 1000 MW of energy from a mix of sources – independent of Eskom – because the metro cannot simply hope that the lights stay on after the elections.

The city hosted a pre-launch event with the Tshwane Economic Development Agency this week to pave the way for “key deliberations” to take place at the Tshwane Energy Summit in June 2024.

Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink said that, while the country has experienced a period of no load shedding, there was no guarantee that the lights would stay on after the elections and into the future.

“What happens after the elections? It is important that we continue to plan for an energy-secure future. We cannot simply hope that the lights will stay on. Therefore, as the City of Tshwane, energy independence remains a priority for our administration,” he said.

“It is essential that we build capacity that is independent from Eskom. Our goal for Tshwane is to generate about 1000 MW of energy from a mix of independent sources by 2026.”

The mayor said that a reliable supply of energy is an essential precondition for sustained economic growth and development, and the country’s energy crisis and load shedding put a cap of 2% on national GDP growth.

“We need to lift that by deploying as much energy as possible so that businesses can thrive and our economy can recover,” he said

Other metros

Tshwane is not alone in its pursuit of energy security outside of Eskom, with the City of Joburg and the City of Cape Town also chasing ways to become less reliant on the national power utlilty.

In April, the City of Johannesburg’s power utility, City Power, recommissioned the John Ware substation open gas turbine, which it said will add 50MW of power to the grid.

The launch formed part of the city’s wider energy plan to bring another 50MW online by the end of May 2024, and a further 100MW by the end of the financial year.

“By then, we will have almost 200 to 300 new megawatts that were not there, something we should have done many years ago,” it said.

In Cape Town, the city announced plans to invest more than R4 billion in electricity grid upgrades and maintenance over three years as part of its budget for 2024/25.

“This is to ensure the grid can cope with a dynamic, decentralised energy future as Cape Town aims to be South Africa’s first city to end load-shedding,” it said.

“Any city hoping to end load-shedding simply must invest heavily in upgrading its electricity grid infrastructure.

“In the coming years, we will go from an Eskom monopoly to literally thousands of different power sellers, big and small, including people selling their excess solar to the City, commercial entities selling and wheeling electricity to each other, as well as big independent power producers feeding electricity into the grid at various points.”

Cape Town has been working on plans to protect residents against the first four stages of Eskom’s load-shedding by 2026. The city already provides load-shedding protection of up to two stages where feasible.

Load shedding pause

South Africa is currently experiencing an extended break from load shedding, which Eskom has attributed to a much better performance from its plants, leading to a massive reduction in unplanned breakdowns.

Energy experts, opposition parties and other analysts have attributed the break to increased burning of diesel, energy users steering away from the utility, and political pressure ahead of the 29 May elections.

Eskom has denied any political pressure and says it is not burning more diesel.

While never directly addressed by the utility, data does show that user demand has tanked significantly, falling short of typical levels by around 2000MW. Analysts have pointed to rooftop solar and private generation as key to this.

Demand is expected to increase in the coming months as winter sets in, with Eskom’s outlook for the season anticipating load shedding to return at some point, but capped at stage 2.

Read: The ‘truth’ behind no load shedding – according to Andre De Ruyter

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