South Africa to tackle power supply crisis by encouraging private and commercial PV installations

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to »open the floodgates for private investment in new generation capacity» to combat the electricity shortage that has been plaguing the country for years with constant grid outages. According to a report by Bloomberg news agency, this includes allowing companies and private households to feed electricity from PV systems into the public grid in return for compensation. So far, South Africa has relied primarily on large-scale solar power plants, but again on far too small a scale.
Ramaphosa and the ruling ANC (African National Congress) party had come under heavy criticism after the country was recently plagued by power outages for five weeks – the worst supply crisis since a near-collapse of the grid in 2008. A »National Energy Crisis Committee« of all relevant ministries and authorities, as well as a technical team, is now to steer the implementation of countermeasures.
»Our overriding priority is to add as much new capacity to the grid as possible, as quickly as possible,« the president said. Eskom, the state-owned power utility, is heavily in debt and its power plant fleet is aging. The company can only secure 26 gigawatts of generation capacity, according to Bloomberg, although peak load on the grid is as high as 32 gigawatts. Meanwhile, the inclusion of private power generators faces fierce opposition within the ANC, where strong forces are calling for greater state control of the energy sector.
Ramaphosa has announced a plan to overcome the crisis, which includes restarting decommissioned power plant units and building new coal-fired power plants or completing those under construction, but also creating generation capacity in rooftop PV plants. Eskom would then be able to purchase electricity from these plants on terms that have not yet been described in detail.

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