Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has provided scant detail about the agreement he signed on behalf of South Africa with eight Chinese companies, with an energy expert saying that he is misleading the public by talking in “mini-facts and non-facts”.
Ramokgopa signed a joint memorandum of understanding with eight Chinese companies on Wednesday during the BRICS conference in Johannesburg.
The agreement aims to ensure that all public health facilities, schools, and police stations in South Africa have alternative sources of energy to prevent them from experiencing the effects of load-shedding.
Over the long term, Ramokgopa hopes the agreement will help bring load-shedding to an end by transferring skills and technology from the Chinese firms to Eskom, improving the utility’s performance.
However, energy expert Hilton Trollip told Newzroom Afrika that he believes the minister is misleading South Africans about the nature of the deal and its potential benefits.
The agreement is expected to bring between 300 to 450 backup electricity generation units. Trollip dismissed this as a farce as there are over 23,000 public schools alone in South Africa.
“I was trying to follow the minister’s mini-facts and non-facts that he was talking about, and I could not find anything of substance,” Trollip said.
China is a world leader in building new generation capacity, building an entire Eskom’s worth of new generation capacity in renewables every year. Its electricity system is 50 times the size of South Africa’s.
Despite this undoubted ability, the agreement signed between the two countries is shrouded in mystery, as it is not public.
Trollip compared this to the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with Western nations that was fully transparent as the plans were made public and each member clearly announced their contributions.
Concerning the deal with China, Trollip is unsure if any substance or conditions are attached to the Chinese aid.
“I am always looking for substance in the Electricity Minister’s pronouncements and never find any. There is a lot of spin in what he says.”
Trollip said this extends to the minister’s claims that Eskom’s performance is improving and load-shedding will end soon.
“When I look at unplanned outages and generation capacity available on the Eskom data portal, there has been no substantial improvement.”
What has reduced load-shedding is lower than expected demand from households and industry due to the installation of alternative power sources.
Further, wind turbines have contributed around 4,000 MW more than expected due to favourable weather, and Eskom has run its open-cycle gas turbines twice as hard as last year.
Trollip said the minister is all about promises, agreements, and numbers – not action.