CHDA guiding district’s energy future
As the country transitions its energy sector from a coal-based economy towards cleaner sources of power such as renewable energy, this will have a direct impact on local and district municipalities.
The Chris Hani District and its local municipalities owe about R1.1bn to Eskom.
This energy insecurity has adversely affected businesses and service delivery in many parts of the district, while also limiting investment opportunities, with some investors having left the region.
The South African Local Government Association’s (Salga) New Generation Capacity-Building Programme, in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development Southern Africa Energy Programme, is providing technical assistance and capacity building to support municipalities in managing existing energy infrastructure.
It also facilitates purchasing energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs) at a much cheaper price than through Eskom.
“The support Salga is providing to municipalities will create jobs and new skills because there is going to be a lot of technical skills transfer needed for these projects.
“Salga is also providing hands-on support to a couple of municipalities that are already advanced in this space,” said Salga spokesperson Sivuyile Mbambato.
He said the programme had attracted more than 30 municipalities so far, with training currently under way.
Spearheading the district’s energy transition programme, the Chris Hani Development Agency (CHDA), established to stimulate economic growth through investment facilitation and partnerships development, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Stellenbosch through its centre for renewable energy and sustainable studies.
The aim is to build a partnership for technical feasibility studies, planning and investment facilitation for renewable energy projects.
Acting CHDA CEO Abongile Hala said as the country was introducing green energy, green gas (hydrogen) and green ammonia, the district was positioning itself towards establishing a manufacturing hub for solar panels and electronics within the Komani Industrial Park.
“[Artisans’ skills] will be crucial towards this process, and will contribute to the economy of the region,” he said.
He added that the renewable energy programme in the province contributed more than 30% towards local economic empowerment through providing jobs during the construction and maintenance phases of the project.
In July this year, the CHDM and CHDA facilitated the Chris Hani Economic Development and Investment Summit in Komani to discuss challenges and lessons learnt from renewable energy projects, areas of collaboration, as well as private-public partnerships to ensure the energy supply future of the district and province.
Included in the concept document is empowering district and local municipal officials, SMMEs, investors and other stakeholders with knowledge on renewable and sustainable energy.
Chris Hani District Municipality spokesperson Bulelwa Ganyaza said the district, through its agency, was still busy with a feasibility study to assess the best public private partnership business model with local municipalities.
However, local municipalities Inxuba Yethemba, Enoch Mgijima and Emalahleni were earmarked to enter into a partnership with the development agency towards purchasing energy from IPPs.
CHDM’s electricity expenditure for the 2021/22 financial year is R45.271,901, which includes water schemes and consumption for offices and buildings.
“It should be noted that the district municipality does not sell electricity to its consumers, the electricity is used to operate the schemes and the revenue is derived from the water consumption by its consumers,” Ganyaza said.
Much closer to the ground, the knock-on effects of power outages have not only crippled small businesses and homebased ventures, but have left many local creatives and entrepreneurs out of work.
“As artists that create music and perform for a living, we cannot share our music with audiences.
“I can tell you for a fact that most local musicians and artists in general are not only losing income but their expensive sound equipment is damaged because there is no electricity backup,” said a local gospel singer who did not want to be named.
The music graduate, who runs a home-based business as a piano teacher, said the majority of artists could not support themselves and their families financially.
“How much more now if they have to also buy generators, inverters or even consider solar energy just to hold rehearsals, let alone performances.
“The whole value chain of the industry is suffering and on the brink of death.”