Power lines. Picture Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA
Power lines. Picture Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA

Salga looking at alternative energy sources to reduce load shedding

By Sibusiso Mboto Time of article published Jun 23, 2021

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DURBAN - THE introduction of alternative energy, especially for poor communities, will help stabilise the power grid, reducing episodes of load shedding and enabling municipalities to meet their service delivery mandate.

This is the view of Nhlanhla Ngidi, head of energy at the South African Local Government Association (Salga), who has decried the scourge of non-payment, copper theft, vandalism of infrastructure and the sense of entitlement among communities.

Speaking to The Mercury on Monday, Ngidi said electricity theft and vandalism of infrastructure were costing close to R10 billion each year, and creative methods were needed to curb the expenditure.

“An audit conducted around 2017 indicated that R6bn was lost each year owing to vandalism and theft and, when factoring in that each year there is a rise, we may be looking at around R10bn that is being lost by local government owing to this,” the head of energy said.

He conceded that while other options had been considered to preach responsible use of electricity, including the introduction of a flat rate for electricity, this had not yielded any benefit, citing the case of Soweto where residents owed power supplier Eskom billions of rand.

He said the country had seen a spike in electricity theft through illegal connections which carried with it massive losses to both Eskom and local government.

“A few years ago, Salga partnered with Eskom under Operation Khanyisa.

“This was an operation where communities were informed about basic electricity that was offered for free by municipalities and the need for individuals to pay for the additional electricity they were using, but clearly this has not worked,” said Ngidi.

This grim reality has prompted Salga to look at alternative ways where poor communities would be supplied with electricity at cheaper rates, while also striking a balance with local development goals faced by municipalities.

The introduction of alternative energy such as solar power would help, especially in rural and township communities, he said.

While conceding that there could be massive costs at the initial stages, there would be long-term benefits for the government and Eskom, he said.

“What we anticipate is that when solar panels are installed in households, there will suddenly be less demand and strain on the power grid, and that surplus power could then be used to pursue other development goals,” Ngidi said.

For this to happen, Ngidi said there needed to be a change in the mindset of consumers across the economic spectrum in South Africa, with every citizen taking ownership of public infrastructure and not regarding it as a government item.

“Once you have that sense of ownership, there will be fewer episodes of infrastructure getting damaged by the very people that it is meant to service,” Ngidi added.

He said in a number of municipalities the use of alternative energy was already being explored and implemented and Salga was optimistic that this would be the future of energy supply in the country.

THE MERCURY

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