STRATEGIC INSIGHTS: Sona: Ramaphosa’s load shedding, energy utterances are a joke

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2024 State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2024 State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 14, 2024


Was the President’s energy utterances all part of a plan to appease investors?

The State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa was an oration highlighting 30 years of the ANC government’s low-hanging fruits of successes. The President tried hard to paint a rosy, highly successful administration picture to the nation.

To top it up, his speech writers creatively invented a fictional character called Tintswalo, who was crafted out of thin air to try and illustrate the 30 years of attempted success under the leadership of the glorious ANC movement.

Unfortunately Tintswalo was not well received by the public and social media. Everyone lashed out with heavy criticism over the claim of Tinstwalo’s rags to riches success story, which would have made sense if it was true.

Most of the commentators went as far as lambasting the President for always citing failed cases, the last speech during Covid-19 was the ice-cream entrepreneur that the President used as an example of his many achievements in changing the lives of South Africans.

For us the main focus of the Sona were premised on the gains, breakthroughs and successes that Ramaphosa was able to achieve in the energy sector. By mainly looking at the 2024 Sona speech and zoning in on the section on energy.

The speech, particularly on energy, was empty of critical detail regarding how the President would end loadshedding. To top it up, hours later soon after the end of the Sona the entire country was plunged into dialled up stages of power blackouts ranging from Stage 3 / 4 and overnight soon after the Sona, power cuts ramped up to Stage 6 loadshedding.

To make matters worse in the closure to his 2024 Sona speech the President made a solemn promise to end load shedding within the next three months.

The Stage 6 loadshedding to summarise all the promises made in the Sona speech as South Africa yet again plunged into power blackouts. Promises that are empty as clearly the end of loadshedding is not in sight.

2024 Sona Energy Summary:

The President said: “We set out a clear plan to end load shedding, which we have been implementing with a single-minded focus through the National Energy Crisis Committee.

We have delivered on our commitments to bring substantial new power through private investment to the grid, which is already helping to reduce load shedding.

Last year, we implemented a major debt relief package which will enable Eskom to make investments in maintenance and transmission infrastructure and ensure its sustainability going forward.

Since we revived our renewable energy programme five years ago, we have connected more than 2 500 MW of solar and wind power to the grid with three times this amount already in procurement or construction.

Through tax incentives and financial support, we have more than doubled the amount of rooftop solar capacity installed across the country in just the past year.

We have implemented sweeping regulatory reforms to enable private investment in electricity generation, with more than 120 new private energy projects now in development.

These are phenomenal developments that are driving the restructuring of our electricity sector in line with what many other economies have done to increase competitiveness and bring down prices.

Through all of these actions, we are confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load shedding is finally within reach .... we are going to build more than 14 000km of new transmission lines to accommodate renewable energy over the coming years.

To fast-track this process, we will enable private investment in transmission infrastructure through a variety of innovative investment models.

Last year, we tabled the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill to support the restructuring of Eskom and establish a competitive electricity market.

As we undertake these reforms, we are positioning our economy for future growth in a world shaped by climate change and a revolution in green technologies.

In the past three years, our country has seen an increase in extreme weather events, often with disastrous consequences.

This is why we are implementing a just energy transition, not only to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, but to create growth and jobs for our own people.

We will undertake this transition at a pace, scale and cost that our country can afford and in a manner that ensures energy security...

We are going to set up a Special Economic Zone in the Boegoebaai port to drive investment in green energy. There is a great deal of interest from the private sector to participate in the boom that will generate green hydrogen energy projects.

We have decided to support electric vehicle manufacturing in South Africa to grow our automotive sector, which provides good jobs to thousands of workers.

We have decided to give special focus to regions like Mpumalanga to enable the creation of new industries, new economic opportunities and sustainable jobs.

And in the past year, we have increased the financing pledges for our Just Energy Transition Investment Plan from around R170 billion to almost R240bn.

“To address the persistent effects of global warming, which manifest themselves through persistent floods, fires and droughts, we have decided to establish a Climate Change Response Fund,“ said Ramaphosa in Sona.

Speech’s energy focus was amiss:

The Sona failed to address the main critical issue facing Eskom and the energy crisis, which relates to high levels of plant breakdowns. The main crisis facing the power utility is not the shortage of generation capacity, but the high levels of plant breakdowns.

The past few days Eskom returned back to operating at dismally lower alarming levels of Energy Availability Factor (EAF) due to higher units breakdowns experienced by Eskom power plants now sitting at around 16000 MW of Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) mainly due to boiler tube leaks.

To make matters worse, maintenance carried out is around 7000 MW of units taken out for maintenance and repairs. Nothing wrong with undertaking these levels of maintenance as it is highly critical.

Furthermore, R240 billion pledges in climate change funding to South Africa have not yet been realised as I pen this column. The pledges were made by mostly G7 countries, but they have not yet delivered on their pledge promises. This as South Africa is busy dismantling its coal-based economy and industrialisation on a premise of unfulfilled green funding pledges.

The rest of the speech on energy was not necessary. That is why most commentators said that lots of what was in the speech were just pure lies. Clearly people advising the President on the energy section of the speech were less clued up about the energy crisis facing South Africa. The economy is losing billions every time loadshedding hits.

The speech should have gone into deeper details on the energy crisis. And illustrate how important it was for the President to have given great detail of information on achievements, success and drawbacks and current challenges facing Eskom and the energy sector.

Perhaps by omitting these critical details on energy in the speech was by default a plan? In this scenario, we can conclude by saying that the 2024 Sona on energy was to send a signal to global markets that South Africa is investing in the Just Energy Transition and to phase out reliance on fossil fuels and coal.

If this is the case, Ramaphosa needs to be held to account.

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is president of Transform RSA and an independent energy expert.

* Disclaimer: Views and inputs to this article are derived from content extracted from research on the topic.