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    Electricity crisis expected to top Sona agenda

    February 7, 2023 - Yogashen Pillay


      Economists and an energy expert said they expected the energy crisis at Eskom to be one of the top priorities when President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address on Thursday.

      ECONOMISTS and an energy expert said they expected the energy crisis at Eskom to be one of the top priorities when President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday.

      Dr Sanele Gumede, an economics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, described Eskom as one of the biggest problems facing the country.

      “From indications that I got from the (ANC’s) January 8 statement, it looks like the government is looking at nuclear power and hydroelectric energy as a way to address the country’s energy crisis. The question is: why has this taken them so long? This was looked at in the past but nothing came from it. If we look at the amount of rivers that we have in South Africa, we could also generate hydroelectric energy to address the energy crisis.”

      Gumede said a state of disaster may not be the right move.

      “If a state of disaster is declared it would see large amounts of funds being allocated to address the energy needs. The problem is we are faced with so many challenges of service delivery, and it could mean funds from these basic services will be redirected to the energy crisis, which will plunge us further into chaos.”

      Energy expert Chris Yelland said the issue of the leadership at Eskom needed to be addressed by Ramaphosa in his Sona.

      “There needs to be an announcement on the leadership of Eskom following the resignation of its CEO André de Ruyter. This a critical position given the current predicament of Eskom. We also await a decision on whether Eskom will be moved to the Mineral Resources and Energy Ministry, and if there will be a Cabinet reshuffle following this.”

      Yelland said Ramaphosa needed to also address the issue of renewable energy.

      “In his 2022 Sona, Ramaphosa said the government would be looking at renewable energy to address the country’s energy crisis. I feel the objectives outlined in 2022 have not been achieved and need to be addressed at the 2023 Sona. We are also awaiting a decision on the proposed state of disaster.”

      Professor Irrshad Kaseeram, of the University of Zululand’s economics department, said the expectation from the public is for Ramaphosa to unpack his plan to end load shedding.

      “This crisis has reduced our gross domestic product growth potential by about 2.1% thus further exacerbating unemployment. The government has recently touted green hydrogen production to address our energy crisis.

      “It will be interesting to hear how the government intends to provide infrastructure rollout for this endeavour. To make South Africa competitive apart from electricity, rail, road and harbour development is critical. How they will increase investment in this regard will be closely followed for whether the plan is credible.”

      Mervyn Abrahams, programme co-ordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, said there was a need for broader economic policy from Ramaphosa to deal with the crisis at Eskom.

      “We don’t want to see Eskom privatised as this would mean electricity would be more unaffordable. Eskom is a national asset and the question is: how is President Ramaphosa going to get Eskom out of the situation that they are in now? Also key to economic growth is to address the issue of a basic income grant and unemployment.”

      Abrahams added that he did not think a state of disaster should be declared.

      “In December the army was requested to provide support to prevent vandalism at the power stations and what difference did that make?

      “We still have load shedding … I can’t see the need for a state of disaster to be declared. We need decisive leadership at Eskom to bring stability to the power situation,” he said.


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