OPINION | City of Joburg's Michael Sun: Joburgers deserve an apolitical IPP programme

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Johannesburg unveiled the first phase of its Independent Power Producer Programme last week, writes the author.
Johannesburg unveiled the first phase of its Independent Power Producer Programme last week, writes the author.

Municipal Independent Power Producers procurement programmes must not become political pawns if the power crisis in the City of Gold and other metropolitan municipalities is to be sustainably addressed in the long term, writes Michael Sun.

It was with a sense of great pride that last week, Johannesburg unveiled the first phase of its Independent Power Producer Programme (IPP) with the launch of a Request for Proposals (RFP) by our municipal utility entity, City Power. That pride not only stemmed from the mere fact that I am the responsible Member of Mayoral Committee (MMC) for energy when this announcement was made, but moreover, it was the culmination of many months of hard work leading to this first step towards a long-lasting and sustainable solution for Johannesburg's power woes.

Unfortunately, Eskom has proved in the last 18 months that it is simply incapable of decisively solving South Africa's energy crisis.

With government left only with state-sanctioned blackouts as an option to prevent a catastrophic national blackout. As local governments, we are faced with the choice of watching this ailing State-Owned Entity limp towards complete failure or begin to look at other options to protect the communities we serve from the socioeconomic poison of load-shedding.

A priority 

It is for this reason that devising a fit-for-purpose IPP solution in Johannesburg has been a steadfast priority of the Multi-Party Government. Beyond hosting the City’s very first Energy Indaba in May, the Mpho Phalatse administration has moved swiftly and with a singular focus in mapping a route away from rolling blackouts for businesses and households in Johannesburg.

As we launch Phase 1 of RFPs, we are inviting interested and capable suppliers to illustrate what they can offer and assist in formulating the perfect IPP programme for the City that will ideally shield Joburgers from blackouts much in the same way it has in Cape Town.

The mother city's IPP has enabled the people of the Cape Town to experience one level less of load-shedding. Meaning that if the country is on level 3, Capetonians only suffer level 2 and so forth. 

READ | Joburg kick-starts plan to source power from independent producers

The Johannesburg IPP's rollout will be rapid and early in 2023, we will begin to see the signs of progress in weaning off our reliance on Eskom. This will be coupled with other initiatives to keep the lights on as we conserve power usage and protect infrastructure from cable thieves.

In the coming weeks, City Power will be accessing a national Department of Minerals and Energy programme to provide solar-powered geysers to qualifying businesses and households, focusing on indigent households, old age homes, orphanages and both people and animal shelters, in order to support the needy and lessen the pressure on the local grid.

LED bulbs in street lights

The City has also rolled out a LED streetlights programme that will see tens of thousands of units replaced with LED bulbs providing more light while saving millions of watts in electricity. Our department has also engaged and provided support to community protection groups that are guarding infrastructure from cable thieves and vandals during load shedding, which provides a handy schedule for these thieving scum to work from without running the risk of high-voltage electrocution.

I recount this good work not merely to boast and score political points. These achievements are not solely owned by a single political party nor the multi-party government. It is truly the successes of the people of Johannesburg that we serve every day – including the opposition in the Johannesburg metro council. It is my sincere hope that whatever happens in the short, medium and long term; programmes bearing fruit in the fight against something as destructive as rolling blackouts are not simply thrown out for political expediency. 

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is drawing nearer. Although it will be several months before the tangible signs of life post-load shedding are visible, Megawatts into the local grid could come only as early as the first quarter of 2023.

Johannesburg's water network is also receiving a much-needed shot in the arm as Joburg Water painstakingly upgrades and rehabilitates our ageing infrastructure. Pikitup will too, soon have its refuse collection capability bolstered with new tipper trucks being added to its fleet to deal with illegal dumping. 

Unfortunately, none of these processes are seamless, and snags alongside frustration must be expected. 

But Joburgers now is not the time for dismay. Hope has arrived!

- Michael Sun is the City of Johannesburg's mayoral committee member for environment and infrastructure.

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