The kingdom of eSwatini has called for bids from solar power producers, announcing that it wants to decrease its reliance on Eskom by adding 40MW of solar capacity to its grid,
The country reportedly wants to produce 100% of its own power by 2034. Currently, 80% of its electricity needs are provided by South Africa’s embattled energy utility.
According to Sikhumbuzo Nkambule of the country’s Energy Regulatory Authority, the country hopes to stimulate foreign investment, create jobs and decrease its reliance on imported electricity through the solar project, which will see power providers bid in a process that will close on August 23.
The eSwatini Electricity Company’s Khaya Mavuso told the Times of Swaziland that a new solar plant would give the country access to an extra 10MW starting from this month, while hydro-electric power from the country’s Maguga Dam should result in an additional 20MW in the future.
Eskom’s troubles culminated in a bout of rolling stage 4 power cuts in March as it struggled to meet electricity demand in the middle of summer.
According to Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, who briefed media about SA’s load shedding woes at the time, a lack of maintenance culminating in a large number of tube failures and breakdowns at local coal-fired power stations, problems with coal supply and the quality of coal provided to Eskom, low dam storage levels at hydro plants, diesel supply shortages both to the country and to Eskom and the collapse of power supply imported from Cahora Bassa due to the cyclone natural disaster in Mozambique were all to blame for the worst bout of rolling blackouts the country experienced in ten years.
“The South African public is requested to understand that many power stations are between 37 and 50 years old and many operate at sub-optimal levels due to their age,” Gordhan said.
“We have asked Eskom to work with municipalities that supply power to large industrial users and businesses to minimise the disruptive effects of load shedding for our economy”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in April that he was doing all he could to ensure that Stage 4 load shedding didn’t happen again.
”Eskom holds our livelihoods in its hands. We need to restructure Eskom but the big challenge is finance. Eskom is our only state company that has racked up R300 billion in debt … that is too much,” he said.
This restructuring will include the unbundling of Eskom into three separate entities – for generation, transmission and distribution – something unions and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have slammed as a path towards privatisation, something the president has denied.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, ANA)