Ramokgopa turns to China to save Eskom

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has turned to China to help Eskom overcome its operational challenges and supply additional generating capacity in South Africa to alleviate the burden on the utility. 

Ramokgopa told eNCA that significant progress had been made over the past three months regarding Chinese involvement in helping resolve South Africa’s electricity supply crisis.

The first area of cooperation concerns the supply of alternative energy sources that can be provided to public facilities such as clinics and hospitals. 

Ramokgopa said a shipment is coming from China that can supply over 300 public facilities with alternative energy sources. 

This will reduce the impact of load-shedding on vital healthcare infrastructure and supply excess capacity to the grid to alleviate pressure on Eskom’s ageing coal fleet. 

In theory, this additional generation capacity should enable the utility to increase the maintenance of its fleet and, thus, improve its performance. 

Other focus areas relate to transferring technology and skills from Chinese companies to Eskom. 

Ramokgopa said he is also in discussions on how to finance the expansion of South Africa’s grid to enable additional capacity to come online. 

Chinese experts have also visited several Eskom power stations and made recommendations to the minister as to how their performance can be improved. 

The experts are also assisting Eskom’s efforts to reduce the emissions from its coal-fired power plants. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Ramokgopa previously said he expects to seal a deal with the Chinese government next week to help solar-power installers in the African nation secure access to panels for projects needed to tackle its energy crisis.

The matter will be discussed on the sidelines of the BRICS summit that started on 22 August, Ramokgopa told Bloomberg TV last week.

“I and my peer from China will be concluding those agreements, and the timelines are really that we should be able to get significant investment into the ground in the next six months,” he said.

Ramokgopa travelled to China in June to meet six of the nation’s biggest solar equipment manufacturers in a bid to smooth access to panels and counter persistent blackouts.

The Chinese government has announced that it will donate R170 million in emergency power equipment and make available an approximately R500 million grant to South Africa to help alleviate the country’s energy crisis.

The announcement was made by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a joint press conference with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa said that South Africa “deeply appreciates China’s support in addressing our current energy challenges.” He added that Chinese companies have responded with enthusiasm to his investment drive, which has raised more than R1.5 trillion in commitments in the past five years.

The Chinese government’s donation and grant will be used to purchase emergency power equipment, such as solar panels and generators, and to support the development of renewable energy projects in South Africa.


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