News in South Africa 21st February:

1. R1.2b plan to stop load shedding:

The provincial government of Gauteng has announced that it will release R1.2 billion towards the energy crisis alongside various other initiatives aimed at mitigating load shedding.

R1.2b plan to stop load shedding
Photo by Sibi Mathew

Other considerations include the installation of smart meters for heavy electricity consumers, with the aim of maintaining responsible electricity use.

Speaking at the Gauteng State of the Province Address last night (20 February), the premier Panyaza Lesufi said that it is important the province tackles the energy crisis head-on if it wishes to remain the economic hub of South Africa.

He said that in a few weeks, the province would appoint six developers who would commence with the construction of an 800MW solar farm in Merafong City Municipality. The province is also set to advertise a call for proposed alternative supplies of energy.

Lesfui said that a handful of entities, including commercial banks and other financial institutions, have already made mention of future partnerships.

According to Lesufi, the provincial government also plans to engage with the City of Johannesburg to allow for the use of City Power and the City of Tshwane for a partnership to expand existing energy infrastructure and generate more power.

On top of that, government buildings across the province can expect to be upgraded with the installation of rooftop solar being prioritised, especially in hospitals and schools.

Although various plans were stated, little detail regarding a set timeline was provided.

Lesufi did, however, make mention of one specific date, 1 April, which is set to mark the rollout of rooftop solar for hospitals and, in partnership with municipalities, smart meter installations at homes.

2. Stage 8 next?:

More than half (24 809MW) of Eskom’s installed capacity of 48 000MW was out of service on Monday morning. 

This is a new record, Eskom confirmed. Massive outages triggered Stage 6 over the weekend, and Eskom warned of further stages of load shedding.   

South Africa is now the closest it has ever been to Stage 8 load shedding, which will mean no electricity for 12 to 14 hours a day.

Planned outages (3 566MW) – for maintenance work – only account for 14% of the generation capacity that is currently offline.

The rest, or 21 243MW, is due to unplanned breakdowns at the Arnot, Hendrina, Lethabo, Majuba and Camden power stations.

Heavy rains have also prevented the delivery of coal from the New Vaal Mine to Lethabo power station.

Lethabo’s three running units are at risk of shutting down if coal supply constraints are not resolved – which would mean more generating capacity would be lost.

As a result, Eskom warned of the possibility of further stages of load shedding at short notice.

3. E-tolls soon to be scrapped:

The controversial e-toll project, which has been a headache for Gauteng residents for more than a decade, has finally been scrapped, at least according to Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s latest announcement.   

“Residents of Gauteng, we are pleased to report that e-tolls have been scrapped permanently in our province. Together with the minister of finance and transport, we will make a joint announcement in this regard.” 

Lesufi revealed that the provincial and national governments were on the “verge” of agreeing on several matters including when exactly the e-tolls would be switched off, the debt repayment methods and, lastly, what would happen to funds collected from paying customers and non-paying customers. 

Lesufi, who received cheers and applause even from opposition parties, reiterated that it was the end of an era.   

“We are of the strong view that this chapter, this part of history in our province will now be finally buried and we will continue without e-tolls in this province,” he said.   

4. ‘Sin’ tax woes:

The sugar and beer industries are again pleading with Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana to hold off on tax increases in their sectors, claiming they are still reeling from the economic blows dealt by the Covid-19 pandemic and recurring floods as well as the high inflationary environment and load shedding.

Their pleas come just ahead of National Treasury’s tabling of the 2023 National Budget on Wednesday (22 February).

In its list of asks of the finance minister, the battered sugar industry – via industry body the SA Canegrowers – has proposed the scrapping of the sugar tax in an effort to save the thousands of jobs that it believes will be lost if the sugar tax continues to be implemented, or worse, increased.

The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) meanwhile, in what seems to have become a tradition, has asked for the implementation of an alcohol by volume (ABV) excise duty system that will see alcohol producers taxed in proportionality to the alcohol content of their products. It also asks for greater consistency in the implementation of current excise regime.

5. Crime reduction at power stations:

Eskom said that since the members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) were deployed to its power stations, 48 people had been arrested for various criminal activities.

Soldiers were sent to various power stations in December, to reduce theft and sabotage at the utility.

The ailing power utility said that it had identified Mpumalanga as a hotspot for coal theft.

It said that despite the defence force not having any powers to arrest these suspects, there had been significant progress in reducing crime as the utility was not as vulnerable anymore.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said they needed to get to the root of these theft syndicates.

“However, we still need to get to the higher echelons of these syndicates, and this is where we anticipate that some of the intelligence we are sharing with the SSA [State Security Agency], as well as with Crime Intelligence, that this will start to bear fruit.”

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Fin24, Daily Maverick, Moneyweb, and EWN.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *