South Africa to spend R 800 bn on energy infrastructure

Oct 24, 2010 12:00 AM

The South African government is to spend over R 800 bn on energy infrastructure over the next few years.

The announcement was made by President Jacob Zuma at the re-opening of the Camden power station in Mpumalanga. The station was first opened in 1967 and mothballed in 1990. It is envisaged that it will contribute 1,440 MW of electricity to the national grid, which will help the country meet its rising energy demands.

Camden is one of three power stations which are being brought back into service. It is planned that Grootvlei and Komati power stations will be back in service in the next two years. Camden power station accounts for R 5.86 mm of the approximate R 27 bn of returning all three into operation. Eskom was also constructing three other stations -- Medupi, Kusile and Ingula. Zuma said government was looking for funding solutions for Kusile power station. Part of the R 800 bn covers Eskom's R 385 bn for expansion.

It is estimated that electricity demand is set to double in the next 20 years, hence the move to bring back out-of-commission power stations. Eskom CEO Brian Dames said that the country had not invested enough in power generation. "Without having the security of having electricity, we cannot sustain and grow this economy," he said.

Eskom provides 95 % of the country's electricity and 45 % of the continent's electricity. Dames said the expansion programme was important not only for economic growth, but to create new skills and factories. The re-opening of Camden has created 2,000 jobs, of which 265 are permanent. Zuma said that the electrification of households in all areas was being looked at by government. As of 31 March 2010, over 3 mm homes were awaiting electricity.

The President said the huge backlog was due to the increasing number of informal settlements and houses being built annually. Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan reiterated that government will work together with independent power producers to ensure that the lights are kept on. Dames said the power utility would try to give its customers certainty over power supply.

President Zuma also took the time to remind South Africans to use energy responsibly. "Let us work together to improve our energy security, as well as ensure the efficient use of this limited resource," said Zuma.

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