Businesses increasingly go off grid as mayor lobbies to do the same
17 May 2019 - by Adele Mackenzie
While the City of Johannesburg is locked in intense negotiations with independent Kelvin power station to ward off load-shedding, the University of the Witwatersrand has quietly joined the renewable energy revolution.
History was made on Wednesday when the first sub-Saharan Africa district heating plant was unveiled at Wits University, which is expected to save the higher education institution millions of rand in energy costs over the lifetime of the plant.
Wits is only one of a number of large companies – including mining producers – who are looking at going off the “unstable and unpredictable” national power grid, with Anglo Platinum and Sibanye-Stillwater opting to build their own solar plants.
The City of Joburg’s 2018 financial results show a 6% drop in electricity sales which Ratings Afrika’s latest Municipal Financial Sustainability Index (MFSI) partially attributes to businesses switching to alternative energy sources.
Johannesburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba has been vocal about the ongoing electricity power hikes which he says South Africa’s wealthiest city cannot afford, particularly when the power supply is interrupted and production is shut down.
When he came into office, Mashaba said power parastatal, Eskom, had blocked his agreement with the Kelvin power station but he was now looking at legal options as well as a direct approach to Kelvin over the prospect of securing a supply contract.
“If this is achieved the city will have a licence to procure 600 megawatts from Kelvin, which has the ability to prevent all load shedding up to and including stage 6,” said Mashaba.
"Can you imagine, as a city, being able to tell our residents and businesses that load shedding will never be experienced in Johannesburg again?”