AgriSA sheds light on national electricity crisis

The Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.

Masoka Dube

AS the country is reeling under the pressure of load shedding, Agri SA says it has a solution to the problem.
Agri SA members claim they have the potential to supply the electricity needed to prevent future load shedding through solar power generation.
According to the organisation, there are already 500 applications for solar generation plants, that have the potential to contribute 1 400MW to relieve strain on the national grid.
It says if the administration processes are streamlined, these applications and others can be rolled out within six months and a next stage in two years, and the availability of that amount of energy could help the country’s economy.
“We are not asking for funding or even special treatment, just to speed up the process within Eskom and NERSA (the National Energy Regulator of South Africa) to process these applications,” said Nicol Jansen, Agri SA chairperson of the Centre for Excellence: Economics and Trade.
“This is a win-win opportunity for the government and South Africa.”
Jansen said small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installations present an opportunity for farmers to generate electricity and relieve strain on the grid.
“Unfortunately, due to Eskom’s slow processing and administration of applications, as well as the slow implementation of electricity regulations and the bottleneck to register with NERSA, only 13 projects are currently connected and operational,” he said.
“Eskom and NERSA can fast-track the process of the applications (mostly from farmers) can generate 1 400MW that can prevent stage One load-shedding. Furthermore, agriculture could more than double the 1 400MW potential if commercial banks are willing to use solar plants as security to get access to capital. Currently, banks require additional security to finance these projects, which limits participation.”
He said by removing the regulatory and administrative constraints and by allowing solar installations to be used as security for funding projects, farmers could potentially, with further expansion, supply enough electricity to prevent stage Three load shedding.
Agri SA will engage with the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan and the Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe, to discuss these proposals.
All that was needed was for Eskom and Nersa to speedily regulate the process, because the first stage could be implemented within six months and the next stage in two years.
He said the solar plants had a 25 to 30-year guarantee from the suppliers, meaning it was a long-term investment and it would help the ordinary South African by lowering the probability of load shedding and save the economy the losses it suffers because of it.
“The solar plants cost between R1million to R20m, so it’s a lot of money and big investment in solar reproduction, but the agriculture sector is willing to do that and the whole of the country can benefit from the additional generating that will be available to the grid,” said Jansen.