The South African government has included the private sector in an emergency plan to tackle the worst-ever rolling blackouts in Africa’s most industrialised economy, by scrapping controls on companies generating their own power outside the broken Eskom monopoly.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said that a wave of new private generation was needed to rescue the country’s grid after recent power cuts of unprecedented intensity.
South Africa will also double its procurement of renewable energy this year to more than 5,000 megawatts and create incentives for those with rooftop solar panels to sell power to Eskom, under expedited policies to alleviate so-called load-shedding.
Removal of limits for generation licences will ease the process for mines and other businesses to set up their own projects, such as solar farms, and sell the excess power to Eskom.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa is dealing with the legacy of years of failure to invest in new supply, forcing Eskom to keep decades-old plants running without proper maintenance in order to keep the lights on.
Despite the crisis, the ANC, whose heartlands include the coal-producing regions that supply Eskom, has been internally divided over taking power generation out of state hands. South Africa’s last complete procurement of independent renewable power was in 2016.