South Africa

POWER LIFT

‘Give me 18 to 36 months’, says Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse to residents buckling under endless blackouts

Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

In just two days, Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse has shifted the city’s energy policy from state-led to independent power producer-led, tossing out the practice of using Eskom’s energy to build revenues.

Successive ANC governments in Johannesburg grew fat by adding levies to Eskom’s bulk price for electricity. The city’s budget is 30% funded by the additional taxes it puts on Eskom’s already expensive product. Now, Johannesburg’s DA Mayor Mpho Phalatse plans to bring independent power producers on to the city grid as quickly as possible.

“It is important to realise that when Joburg, the country’s economic hub — which makes up 15% of the country’s GDP — cannot keep the lights on, it means that mass economic activity is suspended for hours on end, undermining all efforts to build a post-Covid economy,” said Phalatse.

“Within the next three months, City Power will go out to the market for RFPs (requests for proposals), and a tender process will follow that. Once this is done, we can expect to see projects go online in a phased approach over 18 to 36 months,” said Phalatse, as she closed the city’s first Energy Indaba, which refreshingly turned out not to be merely a talk shop.

Johannesburg residents are having a bleak winter. Power cuts now last for days as the system collapses under the twin weights of cable and copper theft and the burden imposed on an old design by daily load shedding.

Phalatse has promised a plan to buy and store energy from the private sector and elsewhere (like individual households) to end load shedding. 

“If we are to relegate load shedding to the history books, Johannesburg requires 100MW per stage of load shedding… meaning that if we had an additional 200MW when the clock strikes five tonight [when Eskom’s power cuts were due to kick in], innovation would shield the city and the city would sustain economic activity,” said Phalatse, who trained as a medical doctor.

Her infrastructure MMC, Michael Sun, is heading to Cape Town before June to see how the Mother City shields its residents from at least one load shedding level every time there are blackouts. 

The team will share knowledge on how to manage requests for information and requests for proposals and procurement, which can take longer than it takes to build new power plants, Phalatse said.

The mayor said she was being conservative with her pledge to change the city’s energy landscape in 18 to 36 months. 

“I believe we can move even quicker and raise necessary funds by allowing existing IPPs to rent our distribution network through wheeling (the process by which IPPS link to the public grid). This is a win-win for both the consumer and City Power, but we must ensure that the grid works.”

This could mean that buying electricity becomes like purchasing data — you have several retailers to buy from via your bank or payments app, or from a shop. 

Meanwhile, the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) on Tuesday approved two private power projects of 100MW each in North West. 

This signals a fresh impetus to take the load off Eskom, which now cuts power every day and burns billions in emergency diesel stocks to keep its gas turbines spinning. DM

 

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All Comments 12

  • This is really good news for Jo’burg residents.
    Every time I see “ESKOM” I want Gwede Mantashe to prove that ESKOM is ‘hiding/withholding’ 5000 MW of power from users. He can be the hero if he can prove this. On the other hand, he obviously can’t prove any of the drivel that he spews in this regard, so he will prove himself to be the poe*** of the week.

  • “Her infrastructure MMC, Michael Sun, is heading to Cape Town before June to see how the Mother City shields its residents from at least one load shedding level every time there are blackouts. ”

    No need. its not rocket science. Just google steenbras pumped storage scheme.

    • Alan, Steenbras is consumptive not generative. It is no different than you taking 100kWh from the grid into batteries in order to get back 80kWh. Cape Town should not be getting a stage less shredding at all. IF they were filling Steenbras with their own solar and using Steenbras 5pm to 10pm it would be valid. They are not – they have zero input generation into Steenbras!!! After they empty 180kWh from Steenbras they then draw another 220kWh on top of their other loads to fill it. The rest of the country is effectively enduring more or longer loadshedding because of CPT’s one stage less. Imagine for a moment that I could convince Eskom to excuse me from loadshredding because I have a battery system (that I fill from Eskom) that I could use during loadshed but because they excuse me from loadshedding I don’t need to. That is how absurd this situation is. I have a lot of private solar on our factory, I inject a lot of surplus solar every week. I am contributing to the grid shortage, not draining it, but I get shredded. That is absurd.

      • Johan, I can see why it doesn’t make sense to you as your are ignoring the Time of Use Cost of generating electricity. Not every kWh costs the same to produce. It can be explained by using standard economics supply/demand curves. At 3am, there is very little demand for electricity, these huge coal stations that make up 85% of our mix can’t just be switched off as they are needed again at 6am, so they are producing excess steam pressure, and thus Eskom is happy to sell to anyone who will take it. low demand, high supply – extreme low cost, let’s say eg. R0.25/kWh. The exact opposite situation occours at peak times, around 7am and 7pm (when the solar panels are not contributing, FYI).

        When demand exceeds supply here, ESKOM need to switch on peaking plants. These are basically huge diesel generators, and the cost is eg. R7/kWh. This is were pumped storage fills a gap. It can use excess power (worth R0.25) from the dead of night, but then switch on to replace something that costs (R7/kWh). Sure there is some loss in the system (about 20%), but you can easily see how this makes simple economic sense. If your factory was on a feed-in tariff with time of use charges it could make the same sense, but we don’t do that unfortunately.

        • Steven, I fully get energy arbitrage thank you. The point is that CPT does not refill Steenbras with its own energy, it refills it with 220MWh Eskom energy. When loadshedding is running days on end CPT would be taking that 220MWh somewhere in the day, meaning it is 220MWh less energy available to the rest of the country adding 40MWh per day to the national energy shortage. At 3AM instead of filling CPT’s dams, Eskom should be using that energy to refill their almost FIFTEEN times larger pumped storage schemes to be ready for the morning peak. There is no logic to CPT getting away with a stage less. At best they can get one stage less, once. Cape Town will not give me one stage less just because I own a battery yet that is your logic. They are EXACTLY like me with a battery but much worse : I refill my battery from solar, they generate nothing at all, they actually waste energy.

  • Please note that the headline of this article gives a time frame – 18 to 36 months. Compare this to all Gwede articles of promise, promise promise and never a time frame.

  • I want Dr. Mpho Phalatse to succeed in everything she does. She is steering Johannesburg and therefore the GDP powerhouse of South Africa into the future. What the DA need to address, is the corrupt officials wanting to scupper any progress, by escalating the theft and vandalism of the cable network. This is where ‘Citizen Watch’ could come in to help the police, security companies and the JHB Municipality. Smart cities means using technology. Residents should be able to tap into an app. and report outages, worker activity around cable and electricity infrastructure. Photographs and GPS can build data against daily work allocations for analysis to assist with pinpointing illegal activity. If every department worked like this, water leaks, pot holes, cable theft, we would be fix efficiently and also be able to arrest and prosecute crime syndicates who are stealing our infrastructure on a daily basis. Let’s get smart now.

  • If the DA led cities actually achieve relative independence from Eskom, then this would bode very well for them achieving a greatly improved performance in the 2024 national elections. Go for it DA!
    It would then leave more available power for Eskom to supply the non DA run cities and rural areas.

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