South Africa’s electricity minister said he expects to seal a deal with the Chinese government next week that will help solar-power installers in the African nation secure access to panels for projects needed to tackle its energy crisis.
(Bloomberg) — South Africa’s electricity minister said he expects to seal a deal with the Chinese government next week that will 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 a summit of leaders from the BRICS group of leading emerging-market powers that starts Aug. 22 in Johannesburg, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in the city on Thursday.
“Myself 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 traveled 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. South African businesses and households are increasingly opting to reduce their reliance on the grid as state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which supplies more than 90% of the nation’s electricity, imposes daily power cuts because its old and poorly maintained coal-fired plants can’t meet demand.
The discussions with the Chinese officials will mainly center around the localization of components for solar panel manufacturing, said Silas Zimu, the minister’s energy adviser. An agreement could potentially result in a South African production hub being set up by next year, he said.
Eskom has estimated that 53 gigawatts of clean energy capacity will be needed by 2032 to make up for coal-fired power stations that are decommissioned. Still, the government has prioritized fixing the utility’s existing facilities and extending their lifespans to try and keep blackouts to a minimum.
The minister said he is confident the outages, known locally as loadshedding, will end and predicted that an additional 4,700 megawatts of power would be added to the grid in the next few months. That would help increase the energy availability factor, a measure of usable capacity, toward 70%.
–With assistance from Anna Edwards, Tom Mackenzie, Nadine Theron and Alister Bull.
(Updates with detail on discussions with CHinese in fifth paragraph, background on clean energy required in sixth)
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