Load-shedding measures welcomed, but unplanned outages big issue for Bay business

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon
LET THERE BE LIGHT: Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon

Though Nelson Mandela Bay businesses have welcomed the government’s plans to mitigate the effects of load-shedding, unplanned power outages from ageing infrastructure remain a sore point.

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa met businesspeople at City Hall in Gqeberha on Wednesday.

He presented the government’s short-, medium- and long-term plans to resolve the power crisis in SA. 

For the Eastern Cape, Ramokgopa said the focus was to protect investment, especially original equipment manufacturers in the automotive sector as they were the biggest employer in the province and continued to drive the provincial economy. 

Ramokgopa said the government and Dedisa Peaking Power plant owners were prioritising the conversion of the existing diesel turbine to gas at Coega’s special economic zone.

“The conversion will increase the capacity from 335 megawatts (MW) to 388MW and increase the base load from 16% to 100%,” he said.

“We are also working with the metro to refurbish its 40MW installed capacity generator.

“The additional capacity will ensure continuity of supply during load-shedding to critical economic nodes supported by the municipality.” 

When the R3.5bn plant was built it was designed in such a way as to make the conversion from diesel to gas easier.

Peaking plants are switched on during peak periods, unlike base load plants that run continuously.

Ramokgopa said his department was co-ordinating with Eskom’s distribution unit to allow specific municipalities to address urgent transformer replacements.

This, he said, would assist with a constant electricity supply during load-shedding that affected economic nodes.

He said the short- to medium-term plans would ensure economic growth by keeping key economic role players open.

The sectors most affected by load-shedding include manufacturing, mining, agriculture, forestry and fishery.

Ramokgopa said the government’s long-term action plan included:

  • Fixing Eskom and improving the availability of supply;
  • Enabling private investment in new generation capacity;
  • Accelerating procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas, and battery storage;
  • Unleashing investment in rooftop solar for businesses and households; and
  • Transforming the electricity sector to achieve energy security.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Denise van Huyssteen said Ramokopa had given an encouraging presentation.

“We received it positively. 

“However, the unplanned power outages are probably the highest issue we face from an infrastructure perspective,” she said.

“We can see there’s a national plan to address the load-shedding crisis but municipal infrastructure is a key area that requires focus too.

“We are willing to collaborate with the municipality and Eskom to establish the root causes of the outages and work together to resolve them.”

Van Huyssteen said the chamber had already engaged with the city and Eskom when they presented a proposal to deal with unplanned outages. 

With Struandale having the highest number of unplanned outages, the proposal was to start to uncover the cause of the issue in that cluster because it included Deal Party and Perseverance which had many operational businesses.

Deputy mayor Babalwa Lobishe said the city planned to install devices that detected theft or tampering at substations.

“As we run the integrated development plan process in the next three weeks [for public participation], we will filter down information we received.”

Responding to questions about when the government would use gas to operate the Dedisa plant, Ramokgopa said they would make an announcement when contractors were appointed.

“We know exactly what the candidate places that can provide us with the gas are, but in the meantime we are working on a more sustainable solution on pipe gas that will come from Mozambique or Namibia, which is the work handled by the minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe.

“What we are looking for now is an interim measure while we wait for an enduring solution so we can have consistent supply and convert the diesel to gas in a manner that favours the SA consumer,”  Ramokgopa said.



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