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​The City of Johannesburg is positioning itself to become more energy independent, said the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Cllr Mpho Phalatse, as she officially kick-started the inaugural Joburg Energy Indaba to seek solutions to the enormous energy challenges confronting the municipality.

Addressing hundreds of delegates, independent power producers, industry experts and academics at the Sandton Convention Centre earlier today, she said the gathering sought to bring together roleplayers with the aim of finding new and innovative ways to generate, manage and distribute reliable, sustainable and cheap energy to consumers.

“Our country has been grappling with several pressing questions regarding our energy future because energy impacts all spheres of our daily lives. Recently, we have seen how geopolitical factors, mainly the war between Russia and Ukraine, have led to the rise in gas prices. On the local front, we have been warned to expect another high increase in the petrol price in June 2022 as national government reinstates the levy on the fuel price. 

“As we are gathered here, for the past few days Eskom has subjected us to Stage 2 load shedding every day between 5pm and 10pm. In 2020, the volume of electricity produced by Eskom fell below the level that was produced in 2004. I do not have to remind you of the tariff increases that have been imposed on the electricity end-user, and it is well-established that Eskom’s price path is not sustainable for the end-user,” said Mayor Phalatse. 

Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Environment and Infrastructure Services Cllr Michael Sun said municipalities were battling with the increasing demand for electricity and the challenge of cable theft, vandalism of infrastructure as well as rising debt due to non-payment by consumers.  He called on industry players to share technology innovations to mitigate challenges faced by the City in the dealing with electricity generation and distribution. 

“Technology is part of our everyday lives and we should use it to better service our residents,” he said. 

Tshifularo Mashava, City Power’s acting CEO, said the electricity industry has been facing the biggest disruption since the first utility was built in 1882 by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb.  She said there are many forces driving this disruption, but it is imperative that City Power does not become slow to respond to disruption. She said the power utility has heard terms like the ‘Utility Death Spiral’, which suggested that the future for utilities such as City Power is dead.

“It is for these reasons that we have actively participated in the industry dialogue. We participated over the years in the AMEU convention, and last year we co-presented with the City of Cape Town, on the Just Energy Transition. In February this year, we presented at the Solar Power Africa Conference in Cape Town on the regulation around Energy Storage, together with the South African Energy Storage Association. 

“We also participated at the Just Urban Energy Transition Workshops with the Stellenbosch University Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies. We also make a point of responding to the calls from the DMRE, NERSA, SALGA and the AMEU for comment on regulatory issues and the changes coming in the Electricity Supply Industry. The energy transition is not something that we choose to participate in or not. The transition is happening whether we like it or not, and it is up to us to see the opportunities that we can leverage to make our city that city of opportunities for all,” said Mashava. 

She acknowledged that already the customers have already embraced the transition by installing PV solar on their rooftops. The power utility applaud them and wanted to partner with them in the journey.

Thomas Garner, the president of South African Independent Power Producer Association, welcomed the challenge and the partnership opportunity by the City to invite private sector and other role player to map a sustainable and reliable energy future.

Written By Luyanda Lunika