Electrification Indaba - New Energy Policies Revealed

Durban - Government is looking for more efficient and effective ways to increase access to and availability of electricity to all South Africans.

The Department of Energy's two-day Electrification Indaba in Durban is opening discussions and debates around this challenging matter, with all relevant stakeholders putting their heads together to help government realise its set objective of universal access to electricity.

Addressing the opening of the indaba on Thursday, Deputy Minister of Energy Barbara Thompson said to date, 82 percent of formal housing, which equates to 75 percent of all households, have been electrified.

"This is a significant achievement considering the population growth and household growth over the years. In less than two decades, more than 5.4 million new household connections have been achieved via grid and more than 46 000 connections via non-grid technologies; more than 12 000 schools have been connected to the grid, and 3 000 schools have been electrified via non-grid technologies.

"Despite this success, the electrification programme is faced with a number of serious challenges. These challenges can be grouped in three categories, all of which must be addressed simultaneously if the electrification programme is to be successful in future," said Thompson.

These categories include increased electrification targets, increasing electrification costs and delivery capacity.

Dr Wolsey Barnard, Chief Director: Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP) told BuaNews with an increasing population, government now had more households to attend to, meaning the existing backlog was compounded.

Barnard said it cost more to electrify rural areas because of the distance between houses as more material ended up being used. The cost to supply electricity to one house is expensive, largely because the price of base metals over the past few years have increased.

Government also faced a problem of delivery capacity. Barnard explained that some regions have greater electrification needs but contractors are located in other areas - this means that municipalities then don't always have sufficient contractors and consultants at their disposal.

Barnard added: "There isn't a single solution to each country's electricity problems but there are principles and models that can be adopted."

Thompson said all aspects associated with these categories must be addressed if universal access to electricity is to be achieved.

"We need to call on all resources, those that are currently actively involved and even those entities that have not previously been involved in the electrification programme, such as private entities that have left electrification to the traditional utilities, to become part of this programme.

"Entities such as the World Bank and commercial banks are invited to make contributions to our electrification programme by giving professional guidance where the current government programme is falling short in funding options and implementation strategies," said Thompson.

Kemantha Govender
- BuaNews