By Jessie Taylor
Increased need for electricity supply
As winter sets in across the country, individuals and businesses increase their reliance on electricity – for light, warmth and other necessities. This increased demand creates more pressure on South Africa’s power grid and can increase the likelihood of load shedding.
South Africa has a ‘peak’ electricity demand profile in winter, with demand showing a rapid increase in electricity usage of approximately 4000 megawatts (MW). This is usually due to the increased use of space heating, geysers, pool pumps and cooking appliances. The electricity demand reaches a maximum during the evening, which is the greatest increase and risk period of load shedding. The increased electricity usage can see household energy costs rising by as much as 15%.
However, a recent decision taken by the South African government aims to secure the health of South Africa’s electricity sector, by freeing up the market and taking the first step in lifting the country out of a worsening electricity crisis.
Power to independent producers
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced that independent power producers will now be allowed to generate up to 100 MW of electricity.
The amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act will allow companies to produce their own electricity, up to 100 MW, without a licence. Under the amendments, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA)’s licencing threshold for embedded generation projects will increase from 1MW to 100MW.
New generation projects up to 100 MW in size will be able to connect to the grid, President Ramaphosa explained.
Generation facilities will still need to have their registration approved by the regulator and meet all of the associated requirements, including grid connection approval from the network provider. However, they will be able to sell electricity to one or more end-use customers, on the condition that they are registered, and have secured grid connection approval.
“This decision reflects our determination to take the necessary action to achieve energy security and reduce the impact of load shedding on businesses and households across the country.”
The increase is higher than that lobbied for by the business sector, which has been calling for the government to increase the threshold on embedded power generation from 1MW to 50MW.
Reform for economic recovery
Electricity reform has been on the cards for South Africa for some time, as the government grapples with creating reform at the embattled Eskom.
The impact of load shedding has been significant over the last few years – in 2019 alone, it was estimated that South Africa’s GDP was reduced by more than 0.3% due to inconsistent electrical supply, or by around almost R9 million.
Loadshedding has been cited as one of the biggest constraints in stimulating economic growth in South Africa – especially in the wake of the economic crisis triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“As a country, however, our challenges predate the pandemic. We have experienced low economic growth and high levels of unemployment for many years, due to the structural constraints that hold our economy back,” says President Ramaphosa.
“There is no doubt that the prospect of a continued energy shortfall and further load shedding presents a massive risk to our economy.”
Electricity supply plays a key role in the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, with energy security listed as a priority intervention.
“Our ability to address the energy crisis swiftly and comprehensively will determine the pace of our economic recovery. Resolving the energy supply shortfall and reducing the risk of load shedding is our single most important objective in reviving economic growth,” says President Ramaphosa.
Despite a recent spate of load shedding, the electricity supplier is working hard to improve the performance of its existing fleet of power stations, reduce its debt burden and complete its restructuring process, President Ramaphosa says.
“This measure will be crucial in developing a response to the energy crisis that is ambitious enough, bold enough and urgent enough,” President Ramaphosa says.
Fight the winter chills with these five tips:
1. Vitamins are vital: Ensuring your body gets enough vitamins can help keep your immune systems strong. You already know you need to increase your Vitamin C, but other vitamins are just as important for overall immune health. Fill your plate with fresh produce and make sure you get plenty of sunlight or invest in a good multi-vitamin, to keep you healthy.
2. Don’t abandon your routine: Short days can bring the temptation to skip some of your usual routine, but it’s important that you keep to your exercise regimen and sleep routine. Both exercise and sleep are essential for maintaining overall wellness and can add to your immune health.
3. Stick to Covid-19 guidelines: As South Africa faces its third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s vital to adhere to personal safety and hygiene guidelines. A lack of contact with others, as well as the protection face masks offer, could mean your immune system is not as strong as in previous years. The same guidelines that will keep you safe from Covid-19 can also keep you in the clear of other colds and flu.
*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.
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