Load shedding: ‘Eskom is going to finish off farmers’

Small-scale farmers fear for the worst despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s surprise announcement about policy amendments to help Eskom. Agri SA economist Kulani Siweya said this opened a significant door for private electricity generation

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“Winter is a very hectic season for small-scale farmers. Now we also hear that Eskom is going to finish us off. So much for a backward new dawn.” This is the chilling remarks of a farmer who took to Twitter to voice their concern about nationwide rolling power cuts.

This, as President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday unpacked the country’s economic recovery plan following an outcry about stage four load shedding this week. In this phase, citizens are left without electricity for up to seven and a half hours per day.

Ramaphosa assured the nation that Eskom was putting shoulder to wheel to ensure the end of load shedding in South Africa. Farmers, however, are on their knees, fearing for the worst amid the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Twitter, @Tsogang3 posted a picture of a chicken coop that is reliant on electricity for heating chicken waterers in the winter. Many farmers also have supplemental heating to keep their chickens warm.

Significant progress made

“Eskom is working hard to improve the performance of its existing fleet of power stations despite all the challenges that it is currently addressing. It is also working hard to reduce the debt burden,” said Ramaphosa.

“In the past weeks and months, we have made progress in addressing the energy crisis. This includes the announcement of 11 successful bidders for the risk mitigation power procurement programme and the opening of bid window 5.”

The president said the economic recovery plan will include the amendment of schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act.

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This will increase the NERSA licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1 MW to 100 MW.

Agri SA said the surprise announcement opened a significant door for private electricity generation. The farmers’ organisation is confident that it allowed new parties to come to the fore at a time when load-shedding haunted the economy.

Private sector involvement

Eskom rescue plan: Kulani Siweya, an agricultural economist with Agri SA. Photo: Supplied/Agri SA
Kulani Siweya, an agricultural economist with Agri SA. Photo: Supplied/Agri SA

“While this will aid in providing electricity in an economic viable way, we further reiterate the urgent need for any administrative hurdles to be addressed within Eskom’s structures,” said Kulani Siweya, Agri SA agricultural economist.

“It is important that Eskom views this an opportunity to partner with independent providers in getting back to supplying stable and reliable energy to the country.”

Agri SA has always maintained that the private sector’s involvement and participation would alleviate pressure from Eskom.

In a media release, the organisation added that the announcement reinforced that Ramaphosa listened to the free-market economy and understood and recognised the importance of involving the private sector.

“A critical factor to economic growth is stable energy supply and with the economy in desperate need to recover from past challenges, including the still-present Covid-19 pandemic, stabilising supply will bode well for business confidence and encourage for job creating investments,” the organisation said.

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