GHL: Cape Town on track to end power cuts by 2025 – confirming 500MW in fresh electricity supply is imminent

GHL: Cape Town on track to end power cuts by 2025 – confirming 500MW in fresh electricity supply is imminent

Ahead of the November 2021 Local Government elections, Geordin Hill-Lewis, the DA’s mayoral candidate for Cape Town, campaigned to end electricity outages within three years. Now installed as mayor, the energetic 36-year-old says he is about to unveil the most significant step in achieving that goal for a city that consumes 2 200MW during peak demand. In this wide-ranging interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, GHL says, “we’re crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s” on an agreement that will bring an additional 500MW supply into the city’s power grid. He anticipates making a formal announcement before the end of March.

Find timestamps from the interview below: 

  • Geordin Hill-Lewis on taking on the stupid rules to end loadshedding – 00: 06
  • What’s the progress – 02: 14
  • 500 megawatts of dispatchable power in context of what the city of Cape Town uses – 04: 58
  • On the JHB to Cape Town semigration issue – 07: 00
  • On how it’s funded – 10: 11
  • On the Russians wanting a EFF/ANC coalition as opposed to a DA/ANC – 11: 04
  • On what DA is doing to encourage people to vote in 2024 – 15: 45
  • On the threat of Gayton Mckenzie and the Patriotic Alliance – 19: 21
  • On if the elections were held today – 21: 24
  • On when will Cape Town residents see potentially the end of loadshedding – 22: 40

Some extracts from the interview:

Geordin Hill-Lewis on the progress towards ending loadshedding in Cape Town

So we are 14 months in now and all four of the major legs of our load shedding program are underway. Three are, in fact, already complete. So the first is that we bought 200 megawatts of power from IPPs. That was renewable power. That tender was out within three months of the election. It’s concluded we are contracting with the winning bidders and after contracting is finished, they can go away and start construction. That’s 200 megawatts. The second is we said we have to change our policy on so-called embedded generation. That’s  businesses and homes owning solar panels and generating their own power. And we said that you can now generate as much as you want. Previously, we used to say that you had to still be a net consumer of power. We now say you can be a net producer, you can produce as much as you want, and that excess that you produce, we will actually buy it from you for full cash if you want. 

That’s a major policy shift, the first place in the country and one of the first cities that I can tell on the whole continent to have done that. And then third, we said not only wealthy households that can afford solar installations should benefit. We launched our Power Heroes program so that any households that saves power during peak times of the day will be rewarded with cash incentives for saving power, essentially exactly the same as selling us power, putting up additional capacity on the grid at peak times. And then the fourth one, which is really about to go to the press and about to go out to the markets, is the big one, the  500 megawatt procurement for so-called dispatchable power that should be released in the next three weeks or so. Those are the four legs, and all of them are well on track. And once they come together, then we can say goodbye to blackouts. And I really look forward to that day.  

Read more: CT Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis: Dear Mr President, time to devolve energy, policing, and rail to well-run local energies

On 500 megawatts of dispatchable power in context of what the city of Cape Town uses

We use about 2200 megawatts of power at peak times. And so this is not designed to get us entirely free from Eskom. That’s a common misconception. I would love to cut our ties with Eskom, but not yet. That’ll take some major power procurements over the next few years. But this is designed to make up the loadshedding shortfall. So when we have stage five load shedding, Eskom insists that we cut 500 megawatts of power from our city grid and that’s the instruction we receive just like every other city and town in this country. And we have to do that. And unless we can make up that shortfall ourselves, we have to have load shedding. So this procurement is designed to make up that shortfall and that’s why it’s called dispatchable. Dispatchable is just a term that means it’s available as and when you need it literally at the flick of a switch. So the trouble with renewable only is it’s only available when the sun is shining or when the wind is blowing. Once you combine that with storage, either pumped storage or battery storage, it becomes dispatchable in that you can use it exactly when you need it.  

Read more: Alan Winde on booming Western Cape emigration – up another 20% this year to over 120k

On the JHB to Cape Town semigration issue

Anyone who visits Cape Town can see that that is the case there. There’s this tremendous pressure on our infrastructure. Traffic is now back to pre-COVID levels. In fact, it’s probably above pre-COVID levels, particularly in poorer parts of the city where densification is happening the most. You will see pressure on our sewage grids, on our sewage infrastructure, evident in many parts of the city and what we have not done while Cape Town has invested quite handsomely in infrastructure over the years. Actually, If you just track infrastructure investment over population growth in the city, you will see that we have not kept pace with the growth of our population. So it’s a slightly different problem to other cities that have not been investing in infrastructure here. Here we have been, but not at the requisite pace. So we’ve said we want to accelerate infrastructure investment. That’s the only way to cope with the problem that you’ve outlined is to invest in infrastructure at a pace faster than the growth of density and population in your city. So we’ve set out a 120 billion RAND infrastructure plan for the next decade, most of it going into water infrastructure, you know, the problems with water in Cape Town and sewage infrastructure because of that density. And then of course, some public transport infrastructure and energy and so on. But it really is a massive acceleration just to give you an idea, we are growing our infrastructure budgets by more than 110% from last year to next year in the space of three financial years, we will more than double our infrastructure investment and then maintain it at that level for a decade. So it’s really big, big stuff. And that’s not always the kind of most interesting thing to talk about. But your question goes to the absolute heart of what makes us able to cope with the pressure of urbanisation and densification.  

Read more: Eskom’s current situation – It wasn’t always like this – Andrew Kenny

On when will Cape Town residents see potentially the end of loadshedding

I have used the time frame of 36 months as a guide to when all four of those legs that I took you through earlier will be in place and will come together to stop load shedding. And I think we are still on track for that time frame. Any opportunity that we can find to speed it up, of course we will grab with both hands. But the fact is most of these new generation projects have to be constructed. And you can’t end loadshedding without new capacity on the grid. That’s just the simple formula and that is the way that you get new capacity on the grid. You have to build new capacity and that takes time.  

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