Ramaphosa: Energy crisis hurting investment, economic recovery

Unprecedented blackouts are here to stay for immediate future, says president

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the government is doing its best to decrease the severity of the energy crisis. File photo.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has lamented the economic devastation Eskom’s daily load-shedding is having on the economy and prospects for foreign direct investment.

This after Eskom in the past fortnight implemented unprecedented blackouts for as much as 12 hours a day.

Ramaphosa said South Africans are justified to be livid — and promised the government was doing something about the power crisis.

In the latest instalment of his weekly newsletter, the president said residents need to be patient with the government’s interventions that are apparently meant to end the blackouts.

Load-shedding, said Ramaphosa, did not only have an impact on the economy,  which is already in the doldrums, but also interrupted social aspects of people’s lives such as formal education and provision of healthcare.

“The widespread public anger is wholly justified,” he said.

“There is a sense of despair that the situation does not seem to be improving and there appears to be no end in sight to this crisis.

“Yet, even in the darkness of load-shedding, there is and must be an end in sight to our electricity crisis. We are making progress in the implementation of the additional actions I announced in July, even though the effects may not be immediately felt.”

Ramaphosa said South Africans must make peace with the “reality” that load-shedding is going nowhere, “given the unpredictable performance of Eskom’s fleet of coal-fired power stations”. The problem was exacerbated by Eskom’s ageing power stations, he said, which have largely received little to no maintenance since the ANC took power in 1994.

He said the best his government can do in the meantime was to reduce the severity of the blackouts through temporary interventions.

“To address the immediate energy shortfall, Eskom has since July worked on procuring emergency power, and in the past week launched power purchase programmes for 1,000MW of emergency capacity from companies with existing generation capacity and to secure imports from neighbouring countries.

“These interventions will help to reduce the severity and frequency of load-shedding as we are bringing new power onto the grid over the medium term to increase energy supply.

“Last week, government signed power purchase agreements for 420MW with the first three preferred bidders under bid window 5 of the renewable energy programme. The three projects are expected to connect to the grid in October 2024, and preparations are underway to sign with the remaining 22 preferred bidders.

“The National Electricity Crisis Committee I appointed in July is attending to the legislative and policy reforms that will establish a more efficient and competitive electricity sector.”

Despite the energy crisis, Ramaphosa urged South Africans not to give up hope. Instead, he said, all should draw a positive mood from the “real signs of progress and good reasons to be optimistic”.

“As we work with greater urgency to fix the immediate problem of an unreliable power system, we are also busy laying the groundwork for a sustainable, lasting solution to the country’s electricity woes.”