Editorial: Time to allow more independent power producers on to the grid

Power cables from Eskom are seen running through the morning mist in Johannesburg. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA
Power cables from Eskom are seen running through the morning mist in Johannesburg. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s term in office has not exactly garnered rave reviews.

The man who rose to the highest office in February last year has been accused at various intervals of indecisiveness, lacking a backbone and lacking a coherent vision.

The best compliments he has received are that he is better than his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, and that he is the best out of a bunch of mediocre leaders.

This is unfortunate because much was expected of Ramaphosa, given that he had been in apprenticeship for the job for about two decades.

This week, he again failed to rise to the occasion when the Eskom crisis presented him with an opportunity to lead.

Not that he was expected to conjure up an engineering miracle and fix a problem that was decades in the making, and that will take at least another decade to repair.

All that was expected of him was an assurance that government and the leadership of Eskom knew what was going on and had a tangible solution to the crisis.

Instead, Ramaphosa made a fool of himself by saying saboteurs were responsible for the country’s crippling power crisis – in effect, contradicting Eskom management’s more believable stance that the heavy rainfalls had soaked coal and exacerbated problems in the vulnerable system.

The nation laughed at the president, who had cut short a foreign trip to assert his leadership.

Why Ramaphosa seems to enjoy scoring these own goals, only he knows.

But for now, let’s look beyond his gaffes and focus on the medium- to long-term solution.

In the darkness of stage 6 load shedding, an article in the Business Insider this week shed some light on the sad tale of the country’s electricity grid.

The publication reported that 27 renewable energy independent power producer projects are on the verge of completion, and some are expected to be connecting to the grid from as early as February, adding 2 300 megawatts to Eskom’s struggling grid.

It is not enough to reduce our dependence on the floundering megalith that is South Africa’s main source of electricity, but it’s a start.

In a country blessed with an abundance of sun and wind (though not this past week), taking hold of these greener energy sources is the only way to go.

It’s time to liberalise the regulatory framework to allow more independent power producers on to the grid.

Let us expedite the unleashing of this energy.

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July 2020

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