Mpho Palace

Johannesburg intends buying 500MW of electricity from independent producers to help prevent permanent blackouts in South Africa’s largest city.

Mpho Falatse, the mayor of Johannesburg, said in an interview that the request for proposals is awaiting approval from the national treasury and should be issued within weeks.

“We will invite private companies to participate in cooperation with the government,” she said. “The deals we want to make must guarantee the protection of our revenues” and the stabilization of energy supplies, she said.

Since 2008, Eskom has subjected South Africa to constant blackouts because its mostly old and poorly maintained plants cannot keep up with demand. The national government recently allowed municipalities to generate their own energy or buy it from other sources, and Cape Town has already announced plans to contract with private companies.

Johannesburg is considering a number of options to increase supply, including entering into long-term partnerships with private companies and charging them access to the city’s grid so they can transmit and sell the electricity they generate, Falatse said.

“You’re looking at 20 to 25 years because the private sector partners have to get their money back,” she said.

Dr Falatse took office last November after the opposition coalition led by the Democratic Alliance wrested control of Johannesburg from the ANC in municipal elections. She expects to need two terms to reverse the “disintegration” that began under the previous administration and get the city back on track.

Backlog of infrastructure

According to the mayor, about R300 billion will be needed to address Johannesburg’s infrastructure backlog and about R26 billion will be needed to stabilize the energy supply. The city has struggled to raise the loans and grants needed to finance expansion and repairs to transportation links, water treatment plants and pipes and other projects, and the funding problems are compounded by a culture of nonpayment among users, she said.

Phalatse has also had to deal with a series of violent protests by communities that lack access to housing, schools and other basic services.

“Protests against service delivery have a political agenda that mobilizes communities to make the new administration look like we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said. — (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP

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