News in South Africa 3rd March:

1. R2.7b solar plant coming to the Eastern Cape:

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has announced plans to construct a R2.7 billion solar power plant in the area to help deal with load shedding.

R2.7b solar plant coming to the Eastern Cape
Photo by Pixabay

The Parsons Power Park project aims to bring 150MW to the area’s grid with the construction of the first phase (25MW) set to begin in November of this year.

The first phase will take up to ten months to complete, the municipality said, and the future expansion of the park (125MW) will follow suit.

Nelson Mandela Bay is a hub for industry, with 50% of all the power it receives going to businesses. For this reason, and to ensure job security, the area needs to move away from Eskom, said executive mayor, Retief Odendaal.

“We cannot simply rely on Eskom,” he said.

Speaking to ENCA, the mayor said that the project would ensure a reliable electricity supply for residents already facing eight years of severe water restrictions.

Odendaal said that this would unlikely be the only private energy generation project.

He said there had been a lot of interest in other initiatives and that the city is interested in purchasing around 100MW from independent power producers.

Parsons Power Park is a joint venture with 16 companies being associated as main funders or sponsors. Companies involved include Natura Energy, RAW Renewables, ENS Africa, and SRK consulting, among others.

Natura Energy said that Parsons Power Park is “aimed at the commercial and industrial market, finds its rationale in the drive currently witnessed to open embedded generation in South Africa’s municipalities in good standing.

“At approximately 500m from the site is the Rowallan Park Distribution Substation, the Parsons Power Park can supply power anywhere in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan area,” the company said.

Weekend load shedding:

Power utility Eskom says that stage 4 load shedding will persist for most of the weekend, with a hope to reduce outages to stage 3 for Saturday afternoon.

The group said that stage 4 load shedding will continue to be implemented until 16h00 on Thursday (2 March), thereafter, Stage 5 load shedding will be implemented until 05h00 on Friday.

Stage 4 load shedding is expected to be in effect for the whole weekend, except for the Saturday afternoon slot. A further update will be published as soon as any significant changes occur, Eskom said.

2. Plans to ration electricity:

It is true that South Africa is preparing a plan to ration electricity, including up to what you could – but engineers would not – call stage Stage 16, and even beyond.

But not because Eskom is in worse shape than it was a week ago, and not because anyone thinks Stage 16 is a realistic prospect.

Instead, a technical engineering body is extending a standard that currently makes provision only up to Stage 8, in what it describes as an exercise in prudence.

That does not mean everything is hunky-dory; the standard only exists because South Africa does not have enough electricity, and it is being further fine-tuned because Eskom is in such terrible shape that it would, in the words of one expert, be inexcusable not to plan for the worst.

The official load shedding schedule has made provision for rationing up to Stage 8 for some time – and Eskom has been fending off rumours of impending implementation of Stage 8 for years.

Since then, South Africa has seen an average of around Stage 2 develop into an average of around Stage 4, as Stage 6 went from a rarity to a regular occurrence.

Over roughly the same period, the idea that President Cyril Ramaphosa would declare a state of disaster around electricity went from being denounced as fake news, to implemented fact – on the basis of a now officially acknowledged risk of a total, national blackout.

3. Wits students protesting:

On Wednesday, 1 March, the students’ representative council (SRC) at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) announced a campus shutdown to protest against financial exclusion and ongoing housing issues. A mass meeting was held on Wednesday night where students deemed the situation a “state of emergency” and the suspension of academic activity the following day was planned.  

Protests continued on Thursday, where — according to the student newspaper Wits Vuvuzela — students did not restrict their protest action to campus but took to the streets of Braamfontein. Many shops in the Braamfontein precinct had to close down because of the protests, eNCA reported. Wits communication officer Buhle Zuma shared a statement released on Tuesday by the university with Daily Maverick, which noted that after morning classes were disrupted on campus, students moved to Empire Road where protests “disrupted traffic” in the surrounding areas.

The university said those causing disruptions would face consequences

“The actions of the disruptors transgress the university’s rules pertaining to peaceful protest, and the rights of those who wish to learn and work. We cannot be held to ransom by a small group of disruptors, and we now have no choice but to act firmly against those who contravene the university’s rules. The university remains open and the academic programme continues as scheduled.” 

The university encouraged staff members and students to report any incidents of disruption to Campus Security Services and went on to thank those who had already done so. 

“Thank you to staff members and students who have submitted video footage, images and statements to Campus Protection Services. This evidence has been handed to the Legal Office with a view to suspending the disruptors in line with the university’s policies and procedures and taking appropriate legal action to ensure that the rights of others are not infringed.” 

4. Floods and car claims hit insurers:

Short-term insurer Santam took a knock in 2020 when it faced unprecedented claims related to the Covid-19 pandemic, another knock in 2021 due to the social unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal, and then another in 2022 when the province was hit by catastrophic floods.

Recently, more floods and an increase in car theft (and costly road accidents) are keeping management on their toes.

Unfortunately, the higher incidence of natural disasters, higher crime levels, rising inflation and more vehicle accidents will result in an increase in insurance premiums and see clients paying a bigger excess when lodging a claim.

This has been echoed by other insurers across South Africa.

Santam posted an increase of 6% in net insurance premiums to R28 billion in the year to end-December 2022 – and claims of R29.8 billion, with reinsurance partners contributing R11.1 billion to the latter.

Of interest is that reinsurance premiums increased by R3 billion during 2022, but recoveries from reinsurers were R2 billion lower.

Santam CFO Hennie Nel says reinsurance premiums increased after the KwaZulu-Natal flood claims, included a reinstatement fee, and became more expensive due to inflationary pressures.

5. De Ruyter corruption claims:

Members of the ANC – including President Cyril Rampahosa – say Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter must report knowledge of criminal activity by senior government officials to the country’s law enforcement.

However, de Ruyter claims he had already previously briefed national police commissioner General Fannie Masemola on allegations of corruption at Eskom involving syndicates in Mpumalanga and two ANC government officials.

A senior police official is now investigating the claims made by de Ruyter.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Fin24, DailyMaverick, Moneyweb, and News24.

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