Gauteng breaking new frontiers in securing energy supply

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi is pushing boundaries by enlisting the provincial government to help solve the country’s electricity crisis, even though energy supply falls exclusively under the competency of the central and local governments.

Lesufi’s administration identified that, in addition to loadshedding, the failure of electricity transformers is a major contributor to power shortages across Gauteng, the nation’s economic hub, disrupting residents’ everyday lives and affecting businesses, households and essential services.

As a result, the provincial government has established the Gauteng Emergency Energy Council, which brings together Eskom, City Power, local government and the province on a solution-finding mission to the recurring blackouts.

“After extensive consultation with the energy sector, we developed an energy crisis response plan in collaboration with the national energy committee, local governments, and energy experts.”

He said the establishment of the energy council, was part of his administration’s Energy Crisis Response Plan to eradicate the energy crisis in the province.

Lesufi said the administration has set aside R1.2-billion in funding to address the Gauteng electricity crisis, marking a significant milestone.

He said they plan to establish a solar farm with a capacity of at least 800 megawatts that will be connected to the national grid.

Other interventions in the Energy Crisis Response Plan include, removing all illegal electricity connections, rolling out smart meters for all households and businesses in Gauteng, cleaning up the municipal billing system to increase revenue, and cleaning up the indigent register.

“This is a testament to our unwavering dedication to shaping a resilient energy landscape for the province,” Lesufi told the audience during the State of the Province address on Monday in Nasrec.

Around 429 transformers, he said, were being delivered to the province’s poorest communities by the provincial government, Eskom and City Power.

“To date, 333 have already been installed and switched on, benefiting no less than 32,000 township households. We have impacted the communities of Kagiso, Boiphelong, Doornkop, Orange Farm, and others. We will intensify this programme until every township and household has been legally switched on, especially Evaton, Ivory Park, Winterveld, and many other communities.”

He said the electricity crisis had severe consequences for Gauteng’s economy and residents’ well-being. Power shortages affected essential services, increased crime rates, and contributed to unemployment.

“Although energy is not a competency of the province, loadshedding’s crippling effect on the functionality of the state and its impact on broader society compelled us to intervene,” he said.

As for the solar farm, Lesufi said that a long-term plan had been put in place with the Sibanye-Stillwater Board to lease the company’s portions of land to be occupied by six independent power producers.

“This is designed to harvest at least 800 megawatts of solar power and supply it to the electricity grid, which will be a game changer for our province.”

He continued: “As part of our energy plan, we are adding 100 megawatts of electricity to the grid to mitigate the impact of loadshedding.”

City Power will implement this Gauteng provincial government initiative using its Open Cycle Gas Turbine technology facilities in Johnware and Durban Street in the CBD. The additional power would be available from April 1.

“We will continue to expand to 300 megawatts in the new financial year. This investment, combined with smart meters, can generate the megawatts needed to cushion our residents against two stages of loadshedding, a critical step towards energy stability for the nation’s economic hub.”

Lesufi said that in the further relentless pursuit of energy resilience, the province is spearheading a transformative initiative of integrating solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage systems into 21 government healthcare facilities.

He said: “This past Friday, we unveiled the first of such facilities at the Diepkloof clinic in Soweto. We are removing health facilities and schools from being impacted by loadshedding.”

Through a memorandum of understanding with City Power, the provincial government will roll out a pilot Microgrid in Alexandra Township that will meet low-income households’ basic
power needs.

“We will expand into at least 13 more communities across the province in Emfuleni (Cape Gate, Sebokeng Unit 20 Tshepiso Ext 3 and Ramaphosa), Mogale (Portion 80 Nooitgedacht, Soul City, and Portion 11 Honningklip 178 IQ), Merafong (Wedela, Kokosi Ext 99, and Khutsong South Transit Area), Midvaal (Mamelo), and Rand West local municipalities (Siyahlala and Jabulane)”.

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