Only political will can address loadshedding woes – BLSA

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The horrors of South Africans having to endure 12 hours a day without electricity seems to have injected a new sense of urgency into our political leadership. Business Leadership SA (BLSA) welcomes the renewed engagement on the crisis from parts of government and remains fully committed to working with the state to deliver on solutions that resolve it as soon as is possible.

But, while we’re preparing proposals for ways to alleviate the extreme bouts of loadshedding there’s a sense of despair that we’re doing it all over again.

The solutions have been tabled time and time again while those that have been adopted as policy appear to be in limbo, somehow always coming up against a new obstacle to delay their implementation.

Quite frankly, until there is political will across government, particularly among all cabinet ministers, it’ll just be more of the same. Solutions will be proposed, perhaps some new ones adopted, but effective implementation remains out of reach and the crisis worsens by the day – as has been happening since the first bouts of loadshedding in 2007.

Despite the need for more generation capacity being highlighted in the late 1990s, we have still not managed to add enough megawatts to the grid to meet demand.

Because of that failure we’ve now been suffering Stage 6 loadshedding with forecasts that it is likely to rise possibly to Stage 8 in June/July. Suddenly those 2.5-hour stints that characterise Stage 4 seem like a luxury. No wonder we cannot attract investment, grow the economy and reduce unemployment.

My loadshedding app shows that Stage 8 means 13.5 hours a day without power. We’ll have power in just three stints of 3.5 hours each to recharge all devices and prepare meals etc. for the next dark stretch – assuming you’re not hit by an unplanned extended session which occurs regularly.

It’s emotionally distressing within households but for small businesses, many of which have invested in coping for shorter stints without power, it could be the final death knell.

There are many legacy issues that remain unresolved while new problems keep arising, demanding priority status. The result is that so many different areas need urgent attention that everything seems to remain in paralysis so that an important aspect such as incentivising households and businesses to get off grid, possibly through tax rebates for solar and inverter costs, barely makes it onto the agenda.

Neglect of the big issues, however, is hugely problematic.

For example, Eskom remains one massive, inefficient entity with high levels of corruption, even though cabinet approved its restructuring into three separate businesses (generation, transmission and distribution) way back in October 2019, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced it in that year’s State of the Nation address (Sona). Similarly, Transnet’s inefficiency is crippling economic growth and job creation, but its unbundling also appears to be at a standstill – despite the president having announced it in June 2021 and it having been enacted in the National Ports Act in 2006.

The restructuring of both state utilities is urgently required to improve efficiencies and reduce concentration risk by introducing private sector participation.

Business Leadership South Africa.

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