Nearly half the businesses in Cape Town are planning to generate their own electricity and reduce dependence on Eskom supplies, according to a survey of members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
They were answering the question: “Do you intend to invest in renewables to generate some or all of your electricity and thus reduce dependence on Eskom?”
Nearly 47% percent of respondents said they intended to invest in renewables while 53% percent said they did not.
“Admittedly the sample was small, but we have spoken to people in the industry and they believe the response is a fair reflection of how businesses are planning to cope with the ever-rising price of electricity,” said Ms Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber.
“We have already seen many businesses invest in roof-top solar including the V & A Waterfront so we know it is happening but we were surprised by the high percentage of businesses which plan to make their own electricity. It gives us a glimpse into the future and it is clear that there will be major changes in the electricity industry.”
In many other countries there were substantial subsidies for roof-top solar but South African businesses were making the decision on purely commercial grounds and without any financial inducements.
Concern about future Eskom supplies and tariffs could also be seen in Saldanha Steel’s plans to get involved in a new 800 MW gas-fired power station. “The interesting thing about this,” Ms Myburgh said, “is that Saldanha Steel’s CEO is Paul O’Flaherty the former financial director of Eskom. If anybody is in a position to estimate the tariffs we are likely to face in the future it is Mr O’Flaherty and he has come to the conclusion that it will be significantly cheaper to generate his own electricity.”
She predicted that the trend to “own generation” would have far-reaching consequences. “Firstly, it is decentralising the electricity generation and opening up an exciting new industry which should create many jobs in the Western Cape.
“Secondly, Eskom will be losing many of its best customers. It is already complaining about revenue shortfalls but there is worse to come.”
Ms Myburgh pointed out that the Chamber had said in its presentation to NERSA that Eskom tariff increases were counter-productive and that its customer base would be eroded. “Now we are seeing the proof of this. Where will Eskom find the customers for Mr Zuma’s nuclear power stations?”