Eskom’s group executive for transmission Mongezi Ntsokolo said at African Utility Week held in mid-May 2014 that the utility has electrified more than 4.4 million households since 1991, which means that more than 86% of South Africa’s population now has access to electricity, compared to about 35% in the early 1990s.

“The current success of our electrification programme has attracted international attention, including that of the United Nations. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, included Eskom on his select advisory panel on sustainable energy. This is in terms of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) project, which promotes universal access to electricity because, without access to light and power, the UN’s development goals will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve,” Ntsokolo says.

“Under the SE4All project, Eskom and its partners are designing an electrification roadmap to extend electricity access in developing countries. A pilot project is being developed for southern Africa, and the plan is to use that as a basis for similar projects in developing countries worldwide.

“We hope to have an integrated southern African electricity grid up and running by 2020, if possible, and certainly by 2030 to bring energy security to the 260 million people in this region. The result of that will be that no country or area should be without power because of local energy shortages or a temporary breakdown.

Countries in the Southern African Power Pool are building high-voltage transmission links within and between them in the region. As new power stations are built in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other countries, this increasing interconnection will ensure that power can be transferred quickly and easily from one country to another.

Ntsokolo also says that South Africa is diversifying its energy mix to reduce its reliance on coal over time. “While coal-fired power remains the most affordable option for South Africa, we have committed ourselves firmly to renewable power in the last few years because cleaner power will become more prevalent as it becomes more feasible in times to come.

“We are building our own renewable power plants, and we have installed solar panels at our head office in Johannesburg and at other operations.  We have erected seven wind turbines of the planned 46 turbines at our Sere wind farm in the Western Cape so far, and we are developing a concentrated solar plant in the Northern Cape.  The two projects will have a combined output of 200 MW.

“Eskom also fully supports the government’s renewable energy programme, in terms of which private companies are developing wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable power plants.  We purchase electricity from those producers and feed it into the grid to consumers.  The programme has been so successful that Eskom has been able to start buying power from private producers ahead of schedule.

“We have emphasised, on a number of occasions, that the contribution that independent power producers can make to the national power supply, while small at the moment, will be important in order to meet electricity demand over the next few years.  Supply will remain constrained until a number of units at Eskom’s large new power stations come online.

In the first two bid windows under the government’s renewable power programme, Eskom has signed power purchase agreements for 2,460 MW of renewable energy. Increasing regional cooperation in power supply should offer South Africa further opportunities to reduce its reliance on coal.  Eskom already purchases 1,500 MW from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric scheme. Additional hydropower plants are being planned or are under construction in several countries in southern Africa, while Mozambique is developing its gas resources.