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Neill_58630 Jul 07

Powering Africa Summit - Country Spotlight: South Africa

Powering Africa Summit - Country Spotlight: South Africa image
Country Spotlight: South Africa
How will South Africa move away from coal to a more diversified energy mix and what will a regulatory environment need to look like to enable such reform? 
South Africa’s reputation when it comes to the supply of consistent and reliable power has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, with intermittency struggles well documented. But within this context, there are increasing calls for progress and success stories to also be brought to light. At the centre of the attention is Eskom whose risk register goes beyond baseload power to also include load shedding, IT issues, natural challenges including solar flares, and – over the past year – COVID.

Yet in both putting out these logistical fires, and wanting to uplift the national grid, there has been a renewed focus on creating an enabling environment for more decentralised energy projects, the use of renewables and gas in the shift away from coal, digital intervention, and wider societal enrichment.

This is why Eskom is championing the recent ground-breaking news from NERSA that South Africa will allow companies more self-produced electricity, up from the previous 1MW, to 100MW. The utility was initially calling for 50MW, which was predicted to open up as much as 5,000MW of “pent-up” independent power projects over the next five years. Offering double this amount opens the sector to independent generation from critical industries, as well as interest from prospective investors and private operators.

“And, actually, the fact that it is distributed around the country helps our network,” said Andrew Etzinger, General Manager: Risk and Sustainability, ESKOM, South Africa. “It creates a better, more stable mix, in partnership with us as the central utility, and we think it’s fantastic news.”

Eyes now turn to NERSA, in conjunction with the Ministry, to see how this news is complemented by regulation which will ultimately dictate the viability of this opportunity to the private sector and independent generators.

And from this new frontier, the hope remains that a more dynamic, open and innovative energy sector can simultaneously ignite progress for the country’s economic, social, agricultural and industrial futures.