Joburg’s plan for private power to launch this week

Mayor unveils strategy aimed at easing load-shedding woes in the future

Gill Gifford Senior journalist
The City of Joburg's heavy reliance on Eskom supply and infrastructure, like the Robertsham substation, will be addressed by the newly unveiled sustainable power strategy.
The City of Joburg's heavy reliance on Eskom supply and infrastructure, like the Robertsham substation, will be addressed by the newly unveiled sustainable power strategy.
Image: City Power via Twitter

The implementation of the alternative energy sustainability strategy aimed at shifting Johannesburg’s reliance on Eskom to alternative energy sources is set to start before the end of the week.

It will begin with issuing an official public request for proposals from independent power producers. The target is to secure 35% of the city’s electricity needs from renewable and cleaner sources of energy by 2030.

“This means the city is set to reduce our reliance for generating capacity on our national power utility by up to 15%, thereby minimising the chances of Eskom’s scheduled load-shedding,” executive mayor Mpho Moerane said at the unveiling of the strategy in Fordsburg on Tuesday.

He said the 15-year plan included solar and gas, and was expected to fast track the implementation of independent power production.

Moerane said the city and Eskom last week signed a memorandum of understanding to explore options for City Power to take over areas supplied by Eskom in Johannesburg.

“The week before then, we closed the two-year power purchase agreement on the privately owned Kelvin power station, which has since confirmed an additional 220MW capacity for the city instead of the initially underestimated 180MW,” Moerane said.

On Saturday night Johannesburg residents were thrown back into the grip of Eskom’s stage 2 load-shedding.

“It is an open secret that the city’s relationship with Eskom is not easy because of prolonged power cuts in some Johannesburg communities,” said Moerane, adding that the city remained committed to securing a reliable power supply capable of serving all the city.

The new energy sustainability strategy will see electricity distribution company City Power turned into an energy service provider.

“This means City Power is set to be a ‘wires business’ that will not only continue delivering conventional power, but will also cover distributed energy generation and energy storage facilities as its core business,” Moerane said in his keynote address.

The plan is aligned with the Joburg Growth and Development Strategy, the GDS 2040, and “is also in sync with our climate action plan which aims to ensure that by 2030, at least 35% of electricity generated in the city is from clean energy sources”.

Addressing concerns that the announcement was election talk, Moerane said the developments were “not overnight initiatives for political campaigning. These are the results of years of work by the women and men in our municipal power utility, City Power. It is a coincidence to reach this stage in recent weeks following three years of interruptions in the planning processes”.

Developments will see the introduction of new gas-powered generation where there are capacity constraints on the Eskom electricity grid. Affected areas in this regard include Midrand in the north and Fleurhof in the west.

“Furthermore, our strategy will see the city sourcing 200MW of electricity from photovoltaic farms and rooftop suppliers. We will also be able to support another 200MW of private photovoltaic electricity generation on the grid through wheeling and trading,” said Moerane.

Another 50MW will be sourced through gas-powered electricity generation, and 25MW more from waste-to-energy in the Robinson Deep landfill site, making up almost 500MW in total.

The recent amendment of schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act allows licence exemptions for the construction and operation of power plants with up to 100MW capacity. This means the city can explore the use of available land around disused mines, some of which is privately owned.

“We are also looking at large rooftop areas of municipal-owned buildings and those of keen building owners who are already connected to the city’s grid to generate alternative energy. The city will be able to introduce innovative methods and competitive power purchase agreements to offset financial and technical barriers faced by almost every municipality in the country,” said the mayor.

Another “quick hit” element is power wheeling. This is a service that will allow consumers to connect to their own chosen energy source to reduce costs and carbon tax exposure.

“The energy sustainability strategy we are unveiling today and will start implementing by the end of the week is rich with opportunities for partnerships that will see us serve and build better communities in Johannesburg.”


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