Joburg wants to buy electricity from private producers to limit load shedding

The City of Johannesburg intends to buy 500 megawatts of power from independent power producers to help avert ongoing blackouts in South Africa’s biggest city.

A request for proposals awaits National Treasury approval and is expected to be released within weeks, Mpho Phalatse, the mayor of Johannesburg, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg offices on Monday.

“We will invite private companies to bid to work with the government,” she said. “The kind of deals we want to make should ensure that our revenues are protected” and energy supplies stabilized, she said.

Eskom has subjected the country to load shedding since 2008, as its factories, mostly dilapidated and poorly maintained, have been unable to meet demand. The national government has recently allowed municipalities to generate their own power or buy it from other sources, with Cape Town having already announced plans to contract with private power plants.

Johannesburg is considering a range of options to boost its supply, including entering into long-term production partnerships with private companies and charging a fee to access the city’s network to allow them to transmit and sell the electricity they produce, Phalatse said.

“You’re looking at 20 to 25 years because the private sector partners have to get their money back,” she said.

A medical doctor, Phalatse took office in November last year after an opposition coalition led by the Democratic Alliance wrested control of Johannesburg from the ANC in local elections. She expects it will take her two terms to reverse the “degradation” that set in under the previous administration and get the city back on track.

According to the mayor, it will cost around R300 billion to fill Johannesburg’s infrastructure backlog, of which some R26 billion is needed to stabilize energy supply. The city has struggled to get the kind of loans and grants it needs to fund the expansion and repair of transport links, water treatment plants and pipes, and other projects, and its funding problems were exacerbated by a culture of non-payment among users. , she says.

Phalatse has also faced a series of violent protests from communities that lack access to housing, schooling and other basic services.

“With the service delivery protests, there is a political agenda at play, mobilizing communities to make it look like the new administration is not doing what we are supposed to,” she said.

– With help from Jody Megson, Arijit Ghosh and Paul Richardson.

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