In his annual state-of-the-nation speech yesterday, South African President Jacob Zuma (pictured) said resolving the nation’s energy crisis was the top priority in a nine-point plan for economic growth.

Referring to ongoing rolling blackouts, he said South Africa “is currently experiencing serious energy constraints which are an impediment to economic growth and … a major inconvenience to everyone in the country.”

Short- and medium-term plans involve improving maintenance at state utility Eskom’s power plants, enhancing power generation capacity and managing electricity demand, he said. The government has committed to help stabilize Eskom’s finances with a grant of ZAR23bn ($2bn) for the upcoming fiscal year, and Zuma said a Cabinet-level “War Room” established in December is working to contain load shedding.  

“The long-term plan involves finalizing our energy security master plan,” he added. “We will pursue gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower and other sources as part of the energy mix.”

He said his nation has signed nuclear power development agreements and held associated talks with the US, South Korea, Russia, France and China and a planned 9.6 GW nuclear programme could produce its first power within eight years.

In addition, he said construction of three new power stations at Kusile, Medupi and Ingula “will add 10,000 MW of capacity to the national grid”. A total of 3.9 GW of renewable energy has also been sourced, he said, and 32 projects with a capacity of just over 1500 MW have been completed and grid-connected. In December 2014, the government also began procurement of 2400 MW of new coal-fired power generation capacity from independent power producers. And Zuma added that South Africa’s Grand Inga Hydro-electric Project partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo will generate over 48 GW, of which South Africa will have access to over 15 GW.

Zuma said shale gas discoveries in the Karoo region, and offshore oil and gas exploration through the Operation Phakisa Ocean Economy initiative begun last year, could prove to be a “game changer”.


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