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Electricity minister’s plan to fix grid capacity problem

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By: Myles Illidge - MyBroadman

Ramokgopa, says government is targeting to expedite the expansion of transmission lines to the Cape provinces in order to potentially unlock at least 2,335MW of energy in the short-term.

He was speaking during an engagement with business stakeholders in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday (20/02/2024).

Ramokgopa explained that there are renewable energy projects that are already producing electricity, but the lack of transmission lines is hampering their ability to add to the ailing grid.

“In the short-term, we can unlock about 2,300MW of stranded electrons. That is the route that we are taking and as the minister, I’ll be making the necessary announcement,” he said.

“We already know the corridors where we are going to get this 2,335MW. It’s in Upington, the Juno Gromis 400kV line and all that in the Nama transformer in Upington (sic).”

“Once we make those interventions, we get an additional 2,300MW. We don’t have to wait for 10 years. It’s the interventions that we are making now but we need to design a bespoke financing solution to help us to address the issues of transmission,” the minister added.

In the longer term, some 14,000km of new transmission lines are to be built in South Africa to connect renewable energy projects and further strengthen the grid.

Turning to demand side management, Ramokgopa said the appetite — from both private persons and businesses — for rooftop solar has grown exponentially since government announced tax incentives and financial support to those willing to invest.

He said connected rooftop installed capacity has grown from some 983MW in 2022 to 4,412MW by mid-2023.

“Our anticipation is that the rate of growth will exceed what we would have seen in the previous calendar year. Two things are an impediment to an aggressive rollout of rooftop solar. Firstly, it’s the availability of equipment,” he said.

“South Africa, compared to many countries in the world, has had the biggest import of solar panels. We have had conversations with some of the biggest manufacturers across the globe — invariably from China — to localise production here. We are confident we are going to do that.”

“The second impediment is the skills to install these solar panels. We will be recruiting about 25,000 people to be able to install. In every crisis, there is an opportunity and that opportunity must be taken. We are looking to industrialise and… we are looking to create these new skills so that we get people into jobs,” he added.

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