South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said the coal-dependent country will begin procuring additional renewable energy to tackle electricity shortages, boost generation capacity outside struggling state utility Eskom. South Africa currently relies on coal for some 77 percent of power needs, according to the department of energy.
During his state of the nation, Mr. Ramaphosa said power cuts will continue in the coming months as the struggling power utility, Eskom, makes needed changes including long-delayed maintenance, reported Reuters.
“Over the next few months, as Eskom works to restore its operational capabilities, we will be implementing measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation in our country,” the president said.
The president’s speech was delayed after members of the populist Economic Freedom Fighters party disrupted him and asked him to sit down, arguing that the public enterprises minister, Pravin Gordhan, should step down.
Mr. Ramaphosa said the South Africa government will begin the procurement of emergency power from projects that can deliver electricity into the grid within 3 to 12 months from approval.
He added that the government is taking a number of steps to ease the power cut situation in the country including allowing commercial and industrial users to generate their own electricity as well as allowing municipalities to purchase electricity from independent power producers. He said the government is also planning to purchase more from existing wind and solar plants.
“We undertake this decisive shift in our energy trajectory at a time when humankind faces its greatest existential threat in the form of climate change,” the president said.
He vowed to finalize the Climate Change Bill with its framework to reduce the country’s vulnerability to global warming.
The announcement comes at a time when South Africa is reeling with its worst economic phase as many state-owned enterprises, including Eskom and South African Airways, now rely on government bailouts for survival. The economy is estimated to grow by less than 1% this year.