Cape Town’s massive 500MW plan to stop load shedding

28th February 2023

The City of Cape Town is gearing up to put 500MW on its grid to cover the failing national power utility Eskom and stop load shedding.

Speaking with BizNewsTv, the mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, said that there is no way for Eskom to get out of its capacity mess, and as a result, the city must resolve the problems itself.

South Africans are currently facing ongoing stage 6 power outages with no sign of reprieve on the horizon.

Eskom’s CEO, Andre de Ruyter, has acknowledged the continuous threat of stage 8 load shedding as the company exists in a fragile state of “hand to mouth”, while the company itself is currently reviewing its load shedding documents – including stages and regulations – in preparation for what lies beyond stage 8.

The procurement of 500MW forms the final part of the Cape Town’s four-stage plan to reduce reliance on Eskom and become more energy independent.

According to the mayor, Cape Town as a whole uses about 2,200MW at peak times.

The 500MW isn’t designed to cut ties with Eskom entirely, but instead makes up for the shortfall that leads to load shedding when Eskom asks cities across the country to cut power. Power from the new project would be immediately dispatchable to households across the city.

There is a desire to cut ties with Eskom entirely, but the mayor said this would take years and significantly more investment.

Hill-Lewis said the discussions around the 500MW project are essentially finished, and more details can be expected in the coming weeks.

He added that extra-legal steps had taken place to try and fast-track the project through the traditional procurement practices which tend to stall development.

Cape Town has consistently driven to shift away from an overreliance on the national power grid. Other initiatives have included:

  • The finalisation of 200MW from independent power producers (IPP).
  • Alterations to policy regarding embedded power generation, so people can generate more power than they consume, and the city would buy it from the generator.
  • Through the power heroes program, households that save power to free up additional capacity during peak times are offered cash incentives.

The city was also the first to announce plans to allow private and commercial solar users to deliver excess energy to the grid and get paid for it.

On 24 January, the mayor said that the city was granted an exemption from the National Treasury for a competitive bidding process regarding the local electricity grid and feeding back into it.

According to the mayor, the exemption from the treasury was necessary as current legislation does not foresee a situation where cities could procure energy independently.

“The sale of excess power by homes and businesses with Small Scale Embedded Generation (SSEGs), among other generation solutions, will contribute to Cape Town’s goal of 4-stages load-shedding protection within three years,” said the mayor.

The feed-in process is expected to roll out to commercial users by the middle of 2023, while private households should be able to benefit from the system in 2024.

The Western Cape as a whole has also been putting in place plans to shift away from Eskom.

During the latest State of the Province Address (SOPA), the premier said that it had approached the provincial treasury for R1.1 billion to be put toward energy independence.

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