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Eskom has beefed up energy security in lockdown, says Gwede Mantashe

Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe says Eskom has made the most of lockdown.
Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe says Eskom has made the most of lockdown.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali © Sunday Times

Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has said that the supply of energy will be critical to revive the economy, adding that Eskom has made the most of the lockdown.

The electricity utility has managed to beef up energy security owing to a low demand during the lockdown.

This comes as most businesses reopen for the first time since March on Monday.

Mantashe said collieries that supply Eskom had been operating at full capacity despite the lockdown, ensuring energy security.

Fuel refineries had also been allowed to continue with operations as usual. Four were forced to shut their doors owing to a fall in demand.

However, since the restrained opening of the economy under lockdown level 4, demand sharply increased, leading to low stock of diesel.

Mantashe said he did not foresee a shortage of energy supply when level 3 kicks in.

“It is expected that diesel will be rationed until the end of May when refineries that were closed start producing,” said Mantashe.

“In our view, energy will be the flywheel of reviving our economy, which has been severely impacted by [rating] downgrades, recessions and Covid-19.”

To bolster energy security, Mantashe added, energy building projects that had halted due to the lockdown, would now be allowed to continue under strict health and safety measures.

The government has also published for public comment, draft regulations that seek to allow municipalities to procure or build their own power generation capacity.

Mantashe’s department has also gazetted amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act on criteria for private companies wishing to generate their own power, restricted to 1MW.

The minister said there had been 384 Covid-19 cases in the mining sector out of 4,600 tests done.

He was concerned that mining companies were prioritising screening over testing as the 4,600 tests conducted were out of more than 250,000 mining staff working since level 4.

The mining sector has more than 400,000 workers who will all be back at work next Monday in line with level 3 regulations.

The sooner mines start prioritising testing, said Mantashe, the better for the government to understand extent of Covid-19 in the sector so it can plan properly.

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