South Africa Outlines Plans to Tackle Power Crisis

South Africa’s energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has pledged urgent resolution of the nation’s worsening power crisis. In her annual budget and policy speech in Cape Town on May 19, Joemat-Pettersson said the country was rushing to finalize its much-awaited Integrated Energy Plan, which, when approved by the Cabinet, will delineate South Africa’s future energy mix and prioritize policy interventions.

South Africa will commence a nuclear procurement process for 9.6 GW of new reactors mid-year, and the first unit could come online by 2023, she said (Figure 5). As part of regional energy collaboration, it is also partnering with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the development of the Grand Inga project. The two countries are formalizing the structure of the business model. “Private sector investors will have an opportunity for collaborating with government on this massive project,” she said.

PWR_070115_GM_Fig5
5. More nuclear needed. Eskom’s 1.8-GW Koeberg Power Station in Cape Town is Africa’s only nuclear power plant. It supplies about 5% of South Africa’s total power needs. To alleviate crippling power shortages, the country is looking to add 9.6 GW of new nuclear power to its grid. Courtesy: Eskom

Along with new coal-fired generation—for which bid submission is currently ongoing—South Africa plans to expand its natural gas sector by about 3 GW. “This is a significant step forward in the diversification of our energy mix,” she said.

Rolling blackouts around the country have curbed mining and manufacturing, limiting the country’s economic growth. South Africa’s Department of Energy says the nation—Africa’s second-biggest economy—has enough installed generation capacity for all its needs, but that “sizeable” power capacity is currently unavailable due to a variety of factors, including unplanned breakdowns, aging infrastructure, and a poor outage maintenance program.

State utility Eskom, which provides 95% of the nation’s power, is reportedly pushing to achieve the necessary reserve margins that will enable it to conduct required maintenance without the need for load shedding.

Deputy Minister of Energy Thembisile Majola noted on May 19 that the Cabinet had since February 2015 established a “War Room” chaired by the deputy president to oversee interventions required to manage the electricity supply and demand and ensure bottlenecks are tackled. South Africa is committed to providing universal access by 2025 for all its people, she said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor