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South Africa will embrace private power generation, Ramaphosa says

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 14 (Reuters) – South Africa will embrace efforts by businesses to generate their own electricity, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday, reacting to growing frustration at red tape throttling private power generation.

Ramaphosa is under pressure over nationwide power cuts that have dented economic output and sapped investor confidence in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Ailing state-owned utility Eskom generates more than 90% of the country’s electricity but regularly struggles to meet demand because of breakdowns at its coal-fired power plants.

Many power-hungry companies such as mines want to build their own renewable energy plants to reduce their reliance on Eskom but have not been able to secure the necessary regulatory approvals.

“For the first time we are now saying let us have self-generation,” Ramaphosa told an economic conference in Johannesburg. “We have opened up a new era … that says we are now embracing the fact there are those companies and households that want to generate their own energy.”

“We cannot stop technology, we cannot stop the future from arriving,” he added.

South Africa’s mining industry body the Minerals Council on Monday urged the government to act urgently to bring online new power sources and ease licensing rules.

Roger Baxter, chief executive of the Minerals Council, told Reuters last month that miners could build between 500 megawatts (MW) and 1,500 MW of their own generating capacity over the next few years if regulations were eased.

Ramaphosa’s government has been slow to procure more power since the electricity cuts escalated last year.

Some labour unions and members of Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress party are deeply suspicious of allowing in more independent power producers. A vocal coal lobby has also blamed renewable energy firms for hastening Eskom’s financial decline.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Alison Williams

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