The promise of a strategic document and the signing of a memorandum were the signs that Johannesburg executive mayor Mpho Phalatse was listening to corridor talk at the first Johannesburg Energy Indaba.

The mayor closed the event on Tuesday by saying the city was taking active steps to mitigate or erase the past 15 years of load-shedding which saw the degradation of the power supply and the city’s grid system.

Over two days, energy and city officials, experts and academics discussed solutions to the city’s power supply. The city now sees 90% of its electrical supply coming from Eskom and 10% from the Kelvin power station, an independent power producer (IPP).

Both entities are coal-powered, with Johannesburg calling for green energy solutions which will also more affordable.

Environment and infrastructure services (EISD) MMC Michael Sun said following on from the Indaba would be a strategic document which would lay out the city’s plans.

Several of the 500 delegates asked about the strategic document and how the city had come up with the figure of R26bn needed to upgrade energy distributor City Power, if there was no strategic plan.

Delegates also wondered if the affair was just a show for companies to advertise their services to the city.

Phalatse said the questions on residents’ lips were “when” and “how”.

Her answer: within the next three months City Power will go to the market for requests for proposals, after which a tender process will follow. Once this is done, she expects to see projects go online in a phased approach over 18 to 34 months.

“I believe that we can move even quicker, and raise necessary funds, by allowing existing IPPs to rent our distribution network through wheeling [transporting electricity from a generator to an electric grid]. This is a win-win for both consumer and City Power, but we must ensure that the grid works.

“I have therefore asked the acting CEO of City Power, Tshifularo Mashava, to break down the R26bn so we can isolate which aspects of it relate to the grid and substations, with the intention of establishing a fund and attracting grants that speak to that aspect.”

The mayor undertook to establish a panel of experts to advise the city and hold it accountable for the outcomes and deliberations of the indaba.

She said the EISD and City Power will embark on a fact-finding tour of Cape Town, before the end of June, “to learn from those who are at an advanced stage of employing many of the programmes we have spoken about during the Indaba”. These will include how to best manage requests for proposal and procurement and how to deal with essential infrastructure crimes.

Cape Town will be closing its tender process to find IPPs for its grid on Thursday.

She said the city also needed to incorporate smart technologies to protect and work the grid.

“If we are to relegate rolling blackouts to the history books, Joburg requires 100MW per stage of load-shedding. Meaning that if we had an additional 200MW, when the clock strikes 17h00 tonight for Stage 2 load-shedding, the city … would be shielded, and economic activity would be sustained.

“I am advised that we are aiming for between 400MW and 500MW of additional power generation.”

The mayor called on delegates to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city, the IPPs and their associations, the investment and financing community, the law-enforcement and security cluster and academia.

The MOU seeks to formalise an agreement that will:

Investigate and research best practices and innovations to determine the ideal way forward for the city.
Explore finance opportunities and potential financiers to provide access to funding for the project.
Petition relevant spheres of government to remove or reduce regulatory obstacles that impede energy projects.
Establish co-operation to secure and protect the vital infrastructure.
“The message is that we are taking active steps to mitigate and eventually arrest the devastation of the last 15 years caused by rolling blackouts, or ‘load-shedding’ as it is euphemistically termed.

“In addressing our energy crisis, it is important to understand that when Joburg — the country’s economic hub which makes up 15% of the country’s GDP — cannot keep the lights on it means that mass economic activity is suspended for hours on end, undermining all efforts to build a post-Covid economy,” Phalatse said.

Source: Times Live