South Africa woos China to help solve energy crisis


JOHANNESBURG, June 13 (Reuters) – South Africa is seeking affordable solar panels, wind turbines, battery storage and renewables technology from China, its electricity minister said on Tuesday, as it struggles to put an end to a crippling energy crisis.

South Africa, the world’s 12th biggest carbon emitter, is grappling with the worst power outages on record while it has also secured Western donations to move away from heavily-polluting coal for power generation.

It wants to reduce daily rolling blackouts, sometimes up to 10 hours a day, but is also trying to ramp up its renewables capacity, especially solar, through industrial-scale plants and rooftop installations.

“We’re looking to China to help us to resolve that problem with regards to the availability of equipment,” Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa told reporters on the sidelines of a South Africa-China energy conference.

The country has up to 66 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar projects in the pipeline, Ramokgopa said, adding that more than 5,500 megawatts (MW) out of this would come online by 2026.

State utility Eskom, which supplies 80% of the country’s power, has a total installed capacity of 45 GW.

The bulk of the renewables power capacity would come from solar installations at homes and government buildings that will require a huge supply of solar PV panels, Ramokgopa said.

He said he would be taking a delegation to China in the coming weeks to build a “relationship with the Chinese”, but ruled out seeking any financial support for debt-laden Eskom.

“We have gone to all other embassies, you are the only ones who have come back to us saying ‘we will assist you without any condition’,” Ramokgopa said.

Siyabonga Cwele, South Africa’s ambassador to China, said via a video message that China’s advanced and affordable technology could help South Africa achieve its energy goals.

Reporting by Promit Mukherjee and Carien du Plessis; Additional reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alexander Winning and Emelia Sithole-Matarise.