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South African court sets aside Eskom’s electricity tariff hikes

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African court on Tuesday struck down some of the tariff increases granted to Eskom this year, saying the power utility had not followed the correct procedure when applying for a special claw-back, local media reported.

National energy regulator (Nersa) in March allowed Eskom a total tariff hike of 9.4 percent, of which part was an interim increase for running expensive diesel generators to keep the lights on in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

A court in Johannesburg on Tuesday granted the application by business organisations to set the regulator’s decision aside.

Had the interim increase not been granted, the tariffs would have risen by 3.5 percent from April 1, Moneyweb reported.

Eskom would not comment on the court’s decision directly, saying in a statement it would await a decision by the regulator.


(Reporting by TJ Strydom)

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Thousands more workers to join strike at South African power utility

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Thousands more workers at South African power stations plan to join a strike on Wednesday over pay at state-run utility Eskom, their union said on Tuesday.

The strike began on Monday when about 1,500 members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) downed tools after wage talks stalled. Eskom branded the stoppage illegal because its members are prohibited by law from striking, but said its operations had not been affected so far.

The union said that all of its 15,000 members at the utility, or close to a third of Eskom’s workforce, will stop work on Wednesday. Tuesday was a public holiday in South Africa.

“It is going to be a total withdrawal of labour by our members. NUM members will be striking for the right to strike at Eskom,” the union said in a statement.

Eskom could not be reached for comment on how its operations would be affected on Wednesday.

Eskom said on Monday that arbitration over the wage dispute was continuing. The utility is offering pay hikes of 7 to 9 percent while NUM is looking for increases of 12 to 13 percent.

The labour dispute is the latest problem to beset cash-strapped Eskom, which has struggled to meet power demand in South Africa due to its aging power plants and grid. However, it has managed a year without rolling blackouts that have hurt the economy in the past.


(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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World Bank program puts Zambia on path to solar energy

Comments (2) Africa, Business, Featured

solar farm zambia

The African nation will develop two solar farms that will produce more than 70 megawatts.

With an assist from the World Bank, Zambia will build two solar power projects that will provide the cheapest electricity on the continent.

First Solar Inc., the largest panel producer in the United States, along with the French company Neoen, together will build a 45-megawatt plant that will produce electricity that will sell for just over six cents per kilowatt-hour. Enel, an Italian company, will build a 28-megawatt plant that will sell power for just under eight cents per kilowatt-hour.

The two solar farms will be built near a substation that sends power to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

The companies are the first winners of an auction program the World Bank launched to encourage wider use of renewable energy in developing countries.

Program reduces costs, risk

The Scaling Solar program, World Bank, International Finance Corp. and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency pooled resources to offer financing, insurance and advice to potential solar developers. This reduces their risk and helps cut costs to build and launch projects, in hopes of attracting large developers capable of building large-scale solar farms to the continent.

The World Bank estimates that less than a quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has access to electrical power. Some African countries, including Zambia, rely heavily on hydropower and have seen energy shortages and outages in recent droughts. Zambia expects to auction another 200 megawatts of solar within a year.

Solar energy development is an important piece of the continent’s plans to help fight global climate change, as approved at COP21 in Paris last year.

Senegal, Madagascar participate

Madagascar and Senegal are also participating in the Scaling Solar project and the World Bank expects to add a fourth African country later this year.

The goal is to encourage development of 850 megawatts of capacity in Zambia, Madagascar and Senegal, which would require an investment of about $1 billion.

The program could be adopted in Asia as well.

“It’s not designed for Africa” alone, said Jamie Fergusson, global lead for renewable energy at the IFC, told Bloomberg. “It’s designed for countries with limited independent power producing experience where the power buyer is a publicly-owned utility.”

Competitive auctions

Scaling Solar uses competitive auctions to award development rights and offers the endorsement of the World Bank. This can allay concerns of international banks about political risk. Using standard contracts, it also speeds development significantly.

More than 90% of Zambia’s generating capacity comes from hydropower.

Drought has brought record-low water levels at the Kariba Dam on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, forcing significant power cutbacks and rationing.

The reservoir has been at 12%capacity this year and dam authorities cut hydropower production to 25% of capacity in January. A year earlier, the dam, which is fed by the Zambezi River, was at more than 50% capacity.

Africa turns to renewables

With renewable energy a priority on Africa’s climate change agenda, solar developments are becoming more common on the continent.

Morocco this year turned on the first phase of what will be a 580-megawatt farm that will be the world’s largest and serve more than one million people when it is completed in 2018.

Noor 1, the first section located near Ouarzazate, currently produces 160 megawatts of power.

Morocco, which imports more than 90% of its energy, wants to generate 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, with a third of that total coming from solar, wind and hydropower each.

In South Africa, George Airport will use electricity from a 750-kilowatt solar project. Projects that will provide hundreds of megawatts are underway in the nation, where clean energy investment rose to $4.5 billion last year.

Entrepreneurs boost small efforts

Smaller efforts are also taking shape as “solarpreneurs” enter the market.

In Ghana, a local company named Volta builds small solar projects for hospitals, health clinics and schools and lets them pay over time. According to the company’s founder, Mahama Nyankmawu, a 45% reduction in energy costs puts repayment well within reach for his customers.

Another company, Off-Grid Electric, said it is installing more than 10,000 solar units a month in Rwanda and Tanzania. The company recently raised $70 million in investment to expand its operations.

As interest in solar grows on the continent, the World Bank’s Scaling Solar project should help quicken the pace of development.

Antonio Cammisecra, head of business development at Enel in Rome, said the World Bank program for Zambia “accelerated our entry by as much as a couple of years.”

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South Africa to add 100 MW solar power to national grid in 2018

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – French group Engie has signed a 20-year power purchase deal with South Africa’s state-owned utility Eskom to connect 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power onto the national grid in 2018 from its Kathu Solar plant.

Eskom, which provides virtually all of South Africa’s power, is facing a funding crunch as it races to bring new power plants online.

With year-round sunshine and thousands of miles of windswept coast in South Africa, investors are warming to the renewable energy potential, with 66 projects completed or underway since the government launched a first bid round four years ago.

Construction of the Kathu Solar Park, situated in the Northern Cape Province, is expected to begin shortly, Engie said in a statement.

Other investors include South Africa’s Investec Bank, state pension fund Public Investment Corporation, SIOC Community Development Trust and Lereko Metier.

The project is funded by a mix of debt and equity. The debt is funded from a club of South African banks, namely Rand Merchant Bank, Nedbank Capital, ABSA Capital, Investec and the Development Bank of South Africa.

Engie owns and operates two thermal power peaking plants, the 670 MW Avon plant, which is under construction, and the 335 MW Dedisa plant that is already in operation.


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by James Macharia and Susan Thomas)

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Ivory Coast president calls for break-up of power, water monopolies

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast will break up its long-standing electricity and water monopolies and introduce competition to reduce prices amid growing public concern over price increases, President Alassane Ouattara said.

The government decided in June last year to increase electricity prices by 16 percent over three years to keep pace with production costs.

Under the arrangement electricity prices were scheduled to increase by 5 percent in January. But some customers saw rates rise by as much as 40 percent, according to a government investigation, prompting Ouattara to cancel the January increases and call for a more competitive industry.

“This situation reminds us of the need to open up the water and electricity sectors to competition,” Ouattara, a former senior International Monetary Fund official, said in a Labour Day speech on national television on Sunday.

“It is competition that will lower the price of electricity. I appeal to all those who wish to invest in that sector,” he said.

The West African nation has emerged from a decade of political turmoil and civil war as one of the continent’s rising stars economically, with growth averaging around 9 percent for the past four years.

However, critics of the government complain that most Ivorians have not benefited from the new-found prosperity.

During his re-election campaign last year Ouattara promised to make economic growth more inclusive.

The Companie Ivoirienne d’Electricite (CIE), majority owned by Africa-focused public utilities manager Eranove Group, has supplied electricity to the Ivory Coast since 1990 under an agreement with the government. The deal, which puts CIE in charge of the distribution of power to homes and businesses, is not due to expire until 2020.

It is unclear how the utility markets will be liberalised or if it can be done before the agreement between CIE and the government ends in 2020.

But it is likely to be a major issue in French-speaking West Africa’s biggest economy where power producers are struggling to keep pace with growing consumption.

Demand for electricity is rising by some 10 percent a year, and the energy minister said last year that $20 billion of investment is needed in the industry over the next 15 years.

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South Africa’s Eskom rules out bond issue for now: CEO

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The boss of South African utility Eskom has ruled out for now issuing bonds to help fund $21 billion of new power plants, saying on Tuesday the credit market was not favourable.

The state-owned company, which provides virtually all of South Africa’s electricity, is building three new power plants to help shore up power reserves, and expects to add 5,620 megawatts (MW) to the network by 2018.

“We will only issue a bond based on market conditions. At the moment they don’t seem very favourable,” chief executive Brian Molefe told Reuters on the sidelines of a company function.

Molefe, drafted in last April from state rail and freight firm Transnet to stabilise the power producer and help it keep the lights on, said Eskom was instead in talks with banks about multi-lateral loans.

“We have the option of going to banks and DFIs (development finance institutions) for multi-lateral loans, which is what we are negotiating now,” he said.

But Molefe said the Eskom, whose Ba1 credit rating is under review by Moody’s for potential downgrade, was not under any liquidity pressure because it had raised enough money to cover its capital needs for both the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.

Eskom faced a crippling cash crunch last year that forced the government to inject nearly 80 billion rand in equity. The utility also had to impose almost daily rolling power cuts that hurt economic growth to prevent the grid from collapsing.

Eskom has said it does not expect power cuts this year.

($1 = 15.4771 rand)


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter)

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South Africa guarantees Eskom’s power purchase agreements

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Power purchase agreements between South African power utility Eskom and independent power producers (IPPs) are now categorized as contingent liabilities, adding about 200 billion rand ($13 billion)to government’s guarantee exposure from 2015/16, National Treasury said on Wednesday.

The government issues guarantees, which will amount to 467 billion rand at 31 March 2016, to several state-owned companies, with Eskom accounting for 74 percent of the total guarantee portfolio.

The portion of the guarantees that firms borrow against, known as the exposure amount, is a contingent liability and creditors can call on government to pay the debt should any default occur.

“The probability of default is low, since the regulator generally approves tariff increases that accommodate these agreements. However, significant deterioration in Eskom’s financial position may increase government’s risk exposure,” the Treasury said.

Exposure amounts are projected to increase to 258 billion rand at the end of March, from 226 billion rand in 2014/15, with Eskom accounting for most of the increase.

Africa’s most advanced but struggling economy is diversifying its energy mix away from an over-reliance on coal-power plants to include greener wind and solar projects.

A successful independent power producers program, started in 2010, is expected to provide 7,000 megawatts of energy with 47 projects fully operational by mid-2016, up from the 6,377 MW procured at the end of December.

Treasury reiterated on Wednesday that government’s plan for 9,600 MW of new nuclear power would continue “at a scale and pace that is affordable.”

Additional funding of 200 million rand was available in 2016/17 for transactional advisers and consultants on the nuclear programme.

Energy investment amounts to 70 billion rand this year and will be over 180 billion rand over the next three years as construction on Eskom’s Medupi, Kusile and Ingula power stations is completed, said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

($1 = 15.3266 rand)


(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng)

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Zambia scraps 73rise in electricity tariffs

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia has scrapped a nearly 73 percent hike in electricity tariffs for industrial and commercial users following an outcry from consumers, a spokesman for state power firm Zesco said on Tuesday.

The country’s power regulator last December approved an increase in electricity charges to 10.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (KWh) from six cents.

“We have withdrawn the application we made to the Energy Regulation Board for higher electricity tariff. We had a lot of complaints and want to consult further,” Zesco spokesman Henry Kapata said.



(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by James Macharia)

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Drought plunges Kariba Dam hydropower to record lows

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

kariba dam

Power shortages in Zambia and Zimbabwe undermine their struggling economies.

Drought has brought record-low water levels at the Kariba Dam on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, forcing significant power cutbacks and rationing.

The crisis at the world’s largest man-made reservoir threatens to further weaken the growth outlook for the two countries at a time when they face falling commodity prices. The struggling mining industry has been particularly hard hit.

The reservoir fell to 11 percent of capacity in late January before rising slightly to 12 percent this month after dam authorities cut hydropower production to 25 percent of capacity. A year ago, the dam, which is fed by the Zambezi River, was at more than 50 percent capacity but drought and heavier than expected water usage resulted in the decline.

Power shortage could last years

While authorities may avoid a shutdown of the hydropower production, power shortages are expected to last for years. According to the World Bank, the power deficit could last at least until 2018 and possibly until 2020.

Henry Kapata, spokesman for Zambia’s state power utililty said power blackouts were averaging eight hours a day or more when imports were limited.

Kapata said the power deficit totaled 630 megawatts in January. The utility’s goal is to reduce the deficit to less than 160 megawatts by August, he said.

Mining industry suffers

Kariba Dam

The power cuts have dealt a significant blow to a mining industry that was already in trouble.

Zambian mining interests in August agreed to cut hydropower consumption by 30 percent as the problems became evident last summer. In Zimbabwe, mines and other major users were ordered to cut their consumption by 25 percent in October.

As a result of cutbacks and global price declines, mining growth has stalled.

In Zambia, where mining accounts for 80 percent of exports, production of copper, also was expected to decline this year. Two major mining companies suspended operations and cut thousands of jobs following the decline in copper prices and thousands of jobs were lost.

Effective January 1st, the government increased power tariffs by 25 percent in an attempt to encourage mining companies to invest in power generation.

In Zimbabwe, where minerals account for 55 percent of all exports, production fell slightly in 2015, according to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe. The total value of mineral shipments declined steadily between 2012 and 2015 from $2.2 billion to $1.8 billion because of low output and declining prices globally.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said the power crisis has become an obstacle to economic growth in Zimbabwe and the government is putting a priority on power projects.

“We regard power generation as our number one priority to move the country toward an economic recovery,” Chinamasa told the Parliament in December.

Engineers see risk of dam collapse

Even as the drought eases, a larger crisis looms for the Kariba Dam. Engineering experts have been warning for years that the dam wall is in danger of collapse.

The low water level reduces the pressure temporarily, but “the bigger picture of the state of Kariba dam is critical,” said Kay Darbourn, author of an extensive 2015 report on the dam.

Darbourn said factors including high rainfall that will feed water inflows locally and from other regions as well as potential earthquake activity, “could all contribute to the likelihood of failure of the Kariba Dam.”

The report, “Impact of failure of the Kariba Dam,” (pdf) said 2014-2017 was a crucial period of danger for the dam, while a project to repair it will not be completed until 2025.

Bedrock at the foot of the dam erodes

The dam was built in 1959 on a seemingly solid bed of basalt. However, torrents from the spillway have eroded the bedrock at the foot of the dam and a large crater now undermines the base of the dam wall.

Engineers have warned for years that the dam, which is 128 meters tall and 579 meters wide, will collapse and the floodwaters will breach Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa Dam, knocking out about 40 percent of southern Africa’s hydroelectric supply.

An estimated 3.5 million lives would be at risk in Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as further downstream in Malawi and Mozambique.

Fears were heightened in January when an earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale struck less than 60 kilometers away from the dam. The dam has withstood quakes as high as 5.5. Authorities are assessing whether the quake caused additional damage to the dam.

Munyaradzi Munodawafa, spokesperson for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), manager of the dam, said Zambia and Zimbabwe had raised about nearly all of the $300 million needed to fix the structure. Work was expected to start early in 2016.

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El Sewedy Electric unit in $484.5 mil Angola power stations deal

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

CAIRO (Reuters) – A subsidiary of El Sewedy Electric has signed a $484.5 million contract to build three power stations in Angola but the deal is “not yet in effect”, the Egyptian firm said in a bourse statement on Wednesday.

The contract between subsidiary El Sewedy Power and the Angolan government is subject to approval by Angola’s president and a specialised court, it said.

“The contract involves supplying, building, operating, financing and maintaining the stations. The project will be done during 2016 but the contract is not yet in effect and is suspended on certain conditions, including the president’s approval,” it said.


(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; editing by Jason Neely)

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