Mabuza in damage control mode after IPP comments, in talks about expediting new projects

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Deputy President David Mabuza has hit out at media reports claiming that he questioned the role of Independent Power Producers in the country's energy mix.

Last week, responding to questions in the National Council of Provinces about Independent Power Producers (IPPs), Mabuza said the country had a shortage of generating capacity and renewable independent power producers would play a role in filling the gap, along with mega coal power stations Medupi and Kusile.

However, Medupi and Kusile have not yet come online as scheduled, and have not been able to provide the 4 000 MW required to meet demand, Mabuza noted.

The power contributed from IPPs alone is not enough to plug the energy gap either, he said.

"We never thought we would run out of electricity, because here are two power stations (Medupi and Kusile) that will add more than 4 000 MW into the grid, here are independent power producers. We thought we would be home and dry," Mabuza said.

"But come 2020, Medupi is not finished and Kusile is not finished. They are not giving us the required capacity that we planned for. Independent Power Producers are individuals supplying 5MW, 2(MW) there, 10(MW) there. It's not significant.

"There is not a single independent producer producing 500 MW… Whether they are there are not, they don’t make any difference," Mabuza said.

He went on to say that Kusile and Medupi would have the capacity, once online, to help avoid load shedding.

Following media reports about his remarks, his office on Monday issued a statement apparently clarifying his position. According to the statement, reports on his statements in Parliament had been characterised "by distortions and miscomprehensions".

"The response to the question on Independent Power Producers, was [...] a reflection on the contribution to the base load that is needed to supply intensive energy users.

"This is in no way underplaying the role of Independent Power Producers to the economy as a complementary effect to what Eskom is producing in order to grow the economy and ensuring energy security," the statement read.

The role of IPPs should complement Eskom's supply to the market, the deputy president's office said.

The Department of Minerals and Energy is in talks to bring online independent power producers in Bid Window 4 sooner than the original expected date, the statement added.

In response to stage 6 load shedding last year, the department issued a request for information from potential power suppliers. The department had received 481 responses, and it is now deciding which ones could potentially provide emergency power within the next 24 months, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said previously.

The department has also finalised a s34 determination which would allow municpalities to procure emergency power from IPPs - however, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa still needs to give its concurrence before Bid window 5 can be opened, Mantashe said.

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