The Source and Solution to Our Loadshedding Problems
This week on Biznews, Alec Hogg interviewed political science journalist R.W Johnson. Johnson told a story about attending a development workshop in the early 1990s. The workshop was attended by many ANC political actors along with a large contingent of pastors from the religious community.
Johnson found himself sitting next to Thabo Mbeki at one of the workshop discussions. The religious folk were going on about implementing a moral examination for international investors. South Africa had the moral high ground at the time. For many, it was important that investors “passed a moral test” if they wanted to invest in SA. Johnson pointed out that in the competition to attract international capital to SA it was essential to have as few barriers to entry as possible. Moral tests would chase away investors.
Johnson suggested redirecting the conversation to more important issues such as the maintenance and development of the country’s electrical infrastructure.
Many post-independence African countries fell into the trap of not maintaining their energy infrastructure and faced severe blackouts. Johnson suggested discussing policies that would help SA avoid making the same mistakes.
Following this question, Johnson said, “Thabo Mbeki stormed off in a huff”.
The other discussion members suggested that Johnson had “insulted” Mbeki by making such a suggestion. The suggestion that the ANC would fall into the same trap as other African countries were not even up for contemplation. Johnson insisted that he was simply stating facts of history.
It turns out that 30 years later, we have ended up in the same place as those other African countries that could not manage the maintenance and development of their infrastructure.
Now, as we sit in the dark, at stage 6 load shedding, South Africa does not have a coherent plan to navigate its way back to a sustainable energy solution. We need the equivalent of a “World Cup Organising Committee” dedicated to doing whatever it takes to resolve our energy crisis. Based on the government response, one would think there is no crisis. Where have we heard that before?
Meridian Economics, an independent advisory firm, has published a comprehensive report on how to resolve the energy crisis in South Africa. You can find the report here. My takeaways from this report are:
- Some intelligent people have applied their minds to our energy problems.
2. A substantial part of the coal fleet reaches the end of life between now and 2026.
3. If we continue as we are, SA will face permanent level 6 and 8 load shedding.
4. It is possible to end all load shedding by 2024 if active intervention starts now.
5. The government’s nonsensical ideological policies are a significant hurdle to solving the crisis.
6. Government has a severe shortage of skilled people to tackle this problem.
7. Several government departments are responsible for different licenses and approvals, and there is no coordination between them to achieve a coherent solution.
8. We desperately need an organising committee to oversee the resolution of this crisis.