Last night there was a shouting match in Parliament, oh and the State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2020 took place as well.

One matter that took up a massive chunk of the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa is Eskom and rightly so.

The utility has been struggling to make ends meet for a number of years due in part to corruption and an inability to supply power that meets the demands of the country.

While newly appointed Eskom Group chief executive officer, Andre de Ruyter addressed the plan to turn Eskom around earlier this year, Ramaphosa also outlined how government will be helping, in a regulatory manner.

“The load shedding of the last few months has had a debilitating effect on our country. It has severely set back our efforts to rebuild the economy and to create jobs. Every time it occurs, it disrupts people’s lives, causing frustration, inconvenience, hardship,” said Ramaphosa.

“Over the next few months, as Eskom works to restore its operational capabilities, we will be implementing measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation in our country,” the president added.

So what do those measures entail?

For one a section 34 Ministerial Determination will be issued soon which enables the development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy. There’s no timeline on this other than “shortly”.

Government will also start procuring “emergency power” from projects which are able to deliver electricity to the grid in three months to a year after approval.

“The National Energy Regulator will continue to register small scale distributed generation for own use of under 1 MW, for which no licence is required. The National Energy Regulator will ensure that all applications by commercial and industrial users to produce electricity for own use above 1MW are processed within the prescribed 120 days. It should be noted that there is now no limit to installed capacity above 1MW,” added Ramaphosa.

Other measures being taken by government include:

  • Opening bid window five of the renewable energy IPP and working with producers to accelerate the completion of projects in window four.
  • Negotiating supplementary power purchase agreements to acquire capacity from existing wind and solar plants.
  • Put measures in place to allow municipalities in good financial standing to procure power from independent power producers

The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) have reportedly been working on a social compact on electricity. The aim of this compact is to find a way to make sure Eskom generates electricity at affordable prices.

“This requires both a drastic reduction in costs – including a review of irregular contracts – and measures to mobilise resources that will reduce Eskom’s debt and inject fresh capital where needed,” said Ramaphosa.

Why exactly this has to be debated is unclear as Eskom’s mandate clearly states that “To prove electricity in an efficient and sustainable manner, including its generation, transmission and distribution and retail”.

While it could be said that trade unions, businesses, communities and government need to agree on how to implement this, the fact we have to now go and implement something that is already clearly set out in Eskom’s own mandate, seems a bit like time wasting.

In short government is planning to do a lot of things regarding Eskom but when we will see those plans come to fruition is any body’s guess.

The state of Eskom is abysmal and it’s honestly high-time government finished laying out plans and started taking action.

We are tired of writing the sentence “government will implement a plan” or “here is the plan to fix Eskom”.

While Ramaphosa says that work is underway to fundamentally restructure our electricity industry we’re waiting for more news than government throwing Eskom yet another monetary lifeline, or Eskom approaching Nersa to grant it a tariff increase that would cripple many South Africans.

In short SONA 2020 left us with more questions than answers.

When (if it’s even possible) will the Medupi and Kusili power plants be complete?

When will renewable energy providers begin feeding the grid?

Is Eskom on track to split its business into subsidies?

While Eskom took up a large portion of Ramaphosa’s speech, there was little we hadn’t heard before and it’s become frustrating to the point of exhaustion.

Action is needed from government or honestly we’re just going to have to copy and paste this article when SONA 2021 rolls around.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]