The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on the Cabinet to declare a state of disaster on Eskom and South Africa’s electricity sector.
At a press briefing in Cape Town on Thursday (12 May), DA MPs Ghaleb Cachalia and Kevin Mileham said they had written to the Director-General in the Presidency, Phindile Baleni, asking for their demand to be tabled at the next Cabinet meeting.
Eskom ‘state of disaster’
“The significance of a state of disaster on Eskom and the electricity sector is that it will help galvanise the national effort towards incremental energy projects with specific deliverables,” they said.
“Upon making this declaration, the DA is of the view that an Electricity Emergency Response Plan (EERP) must be activated to lay out short, medium and long term goals to bring additional generation capacity to the grid.
“Conceptualisation and finalisation of the plan should involve all stakeholders, from government, industry experts, engineering bodies, IPPs, civil society and members of the public.”
During a briefing of Parliament last week, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan dismissed the idea outright, insisting that Eskom has internal plans to protect South Africa’s power system from total collapse. This includes escalating load shedding to stage 8, if needs be.
“There should therefore be a distinction made between a state of disaster just for ‘dramatic effect’ compared to a power system emergency. It falls within the purview of the system’s operator,” he explained.
However, Cachalia and Mileham said the government should not wait for stage 8 load shedding before declaring an emergency.
“The truth is, South Africa is already in an electricity shortage crisis, with a generation shortfall of between 4,000 and 6,000MW right now, and the government is duty bound to respond with urgency,” they reiterated.
“Should the electricity crisis be allowed to degenerate beyond the stage that it is in at the moment, the consequences on the country’s economy, security, investment climate and socio-economic order will be severe.”
Eskom has implemented stage 2 load shedding between 17h00 and 22h00 throughout this week, citing capacity constraints. In a briefing this week, it also forecast more power cuts until the end of July.
“Planned maintenance is Eskom’s only weapon to try bring reliability and predictability to a neglected plant,” Eskom Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer said.
“In order to create space to effectively execute on the Reliability Maintenance Recovery (RMR) programme while fully powering a growing economy, South Africa desperately needs additional generation capacity of between 4,000MW and 6,000MW. With power stations reaching the end of their operational life, the gap will only increase. Bringing on new capacity onto the grid as soon as possible is therefore critical and requires an SA Inc. approach.”