Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Minister Gwede Mantashe’s comments downplaying load shedding as not being a uniquely South African phenomenon is a concerning deflection that undermines the plight of ordinary citizens.
This according to political analyst Dr Dale McKinley, who said the sentiment showed a pattern of “once again not dealing with the fundamental issue”.
Load shedding has plagued South Africa since 2007, but the current year has been the worst on record, with over 100 days of rolling blackouts.
On Thursday, during the signing off on three projects under Bid Window 5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), Mantashe said the mood of society was understandably upset at present.
“When you explain the [load shedding] crisis to society, South Africans see themselves as an island when the electricity crisis is a global phenomenon.”
He said Europe’s coal orders from South Africa had increased by 720%, and that they too were experiencing bouts of their own load shedding.
Power cuts in the region are in fact owed to Russia restricting gas supplies, in light of the ongoing Ukraine war.
“It is absolute nonsense for him to establish a direct link,” McKinley said, adding that Mantashe’s comments could be interpreted as “running” away from the issue.
“I don’t think the political class understands the plight of ordinary South Africans,” McKinley continued, adding that those in political positions cannot seem to appreciate how load shedding is affecting citizens and their businesses.
SA and Europe not comparable
The problems affecting South Africa’s energy woes and Europe’s are vastly different, independent consultant in energy research Hilton Trollip explained.
“Europe has a massive energy shortage because Russia cut off gas supply. Gas is a major supply of electricity in Europe. It’s as simple as that.
“They haven’t got massive energy supply [issues because they don’t have enough electricity generation capacity.”
He said South Africa has not built sufficient generating capacity for the past seven years.
“Much of our old fleet has been so hammered that it’s now reaching beyond repair state.”
Renewables are the fastest, least-cost solution to close the grid’s gaping supply shortage, Trollip said.
SA missed the renewables boat
Renewables can also close the grid’s gaping supply shortage, Trollip said.
But the plight of convincing government of the values of adding renewable energy to the embattled national grid was far from being solved.
This despite a report released by Meridian Economics in June, which found that had the REIPPPP not stalled in 2016, wind and solar power would have added 5 gigawatts to the national grid, eliminating load shedding in 2021 by 96.5%.
The amount of diesel burnt in open cycle gas turbine peakers would have also been reduced by more than 70%. Eskom would have recorded a net annual saving of R2.5 billion as a result.
“Modelling of the South African electricity system by the CSIR, UCT and Meridian Economics and peer-reviewed journal articles show clearly that the least-cost solution to filling the power shortage gap and then rebuilding and extending the system as coal-fired plants are retired over the next 10 years consists mainly of wind and solar-PV [photovoltaic].
“This is the result of scientific evidence and analysis, not opinion,” Trollip emphasised.
“Regular statements in the media indicate that Mantashe and the DMRE staff differ fundamentally with the detailed published results of these analyses,” Trollip added.
“They maintain that new coal and gas are required to ‘supply baseload’.”
Trollip said similar detailed reports and analyses, however, are not presented to back the DMRE’s and Mantashe’s statements.