President Cyril Ramaphosa has approved the start of a process of drafting of new legislation which would deregulate the process of companies and households generating their own electricity.
At the Business Economic Indaba in Sandton on Tuesday, he said government had decided for the first time that self-generation should be “embraced”.
“For the first time, we are now saying that let us have self-generation. As we move forward, we are beginning to address all those policy issues that have introduced uncertainty and inconsistency,” Ramaphosa said.
“We now opened up a new era in the history of our energy resource generation, if you like, that says we now are embracing the fact that there are those companies, even families or households, that want to generate their own energy,” he added.
“We cannot stop technology, we cannot stop the future from arriving.”
Ramaphosa also assured the business community that the many problems facing Eskom were being addressed by government, and added that government was expediting the issuing of renewable energy producers licences to provide additional capacity.
The president’s comments came after companies at the Indaba engaged in an energy crisis breakaway discussion on Tuesday.
The discussion resulted in calls for the presidency to directly control South Africa’s energy plan, and for calls to fast-track the deregulation of private sector generation.
Moneyweb reported in May last year that forward-thinking businesses in SA were already starting to confront life without Eskom by putting plans in place to generate their own energy.
Anglo Platinum and Sibanye-Stillwater are two high profile companies at an advanced stage of planning for solar plants to generate their own electricity.
The City of Joburg wants to cement a deal with Harith-owned Kelvin Power Station to purchase power as a way to prevent load shedding, which has done incalculable harm to businesses in the city.
Other companies are further advanced in their plans to reduce their dependence on Eskom power. In 2016, Makro erected solar panels on the roof of its Makro Carnival store on the East Rand to generate 60-80% of its energy needs during the day, equivalent to 30% of the store’s annual energy needs. Many smaller businesses have invested hundreds of thousands of rands in generators to serve as back-up power sources in the event of outages.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Additional reporting, Ciaran Ryan)