Trade union Solidarity has called on the government to privatise the production of electricity and wants electricity generation to be decentralised. It has also strongly encouraged small-scale power generation on a larger scale. The union published its “Fixing South Africa’s Electricity Crisis,” report that was released in light of the current rolling blackouts. They are having a dire impact on small, medium and large businesses. Solidarity wants every small-scale power generator to be encouraged to apply for a permit from the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) to start feeding power into the grid.
To this end, Solidarity has undertaken to assist in mobilising small-scale power generation in any way possible, including raising awareness and assisting power generators to acquire a permit from Nersa. Solidarity Research Institution head Connie Mulder agrees with most experts that Eskom does not have the capacity to meet the nation’s electricity demand.
“It is obvious that Eskom does not have the capacity to supply the country’s current energy needs and it will certainly not be able to meet future energy needs,” he said. “Eskom itself will decommission most of its coal fleet in the coming decades with 22,000 MW to be decommissioned by 2035. “By 2035 South Africa will need approximately 68,000 MW of private generation just to replace this coal fleet. We, therefore, have to move much faster just to maintain the current level of generation. For this reason, we urgently need to facilitate and encourage private generation,” Mulder explained.
A petition submitted by Solidarity to Parliament this week requests that the government ease the legislation that prevents small-scale power producers from entering the market and keeps investors from investing in the sector. It also urges that the government increase training in renewable energy and in battery storage technology, and implement a comprehensive supply tariff scheme to address immediate supply issues. “South Africa does not require centralised generation projects, planned and controlled by the government, but much rather a radical, decentralised approach to electricity generation,” Mulder said.
“New technologies in renewable energy have made economies of scale attainable for the small-scale generator,” Mulder noted that energy security was critical for economic growth and job security for South African citizens. “Without energy security, all our members’ jobs are being threatened as investments dwindle and businesses have to resort to retrenchment to keep going,” he said.
“Any institution that is serious about jobs should urgently intervene in the energy sector, not only to maintain jobs in that sector but also to protect and hopefully expand job creation throughout the entire economy.” This week the state’s National Planning Commission said that the declaration of an energy crisis in South Africa would allow for coordinated efforts toward alleviating the electricity dilemma in the country. It also warned that the country would not reach its National Development Plan goals without a stable energy supply.