Electricity costs for farmers – Eskom drags its feet

The Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) analysis of the electricity supply under the pandemic raised worrying flags.

“Eskom share of its capacity that is actually available for generation sank to 66% in the past year; it needs over 70% to ensure reliable supply for the country.”

Agri SA in 2018 called for the government to resolve energy administration issues and allow its members to install solar generation plants.

“There are already 500 applications for solar generation plants that have the potential to contribute 1 400 MW to relieve strain on the grid. If the administration processes are streamlined, these 500 applications and others can be rolled out” it previously said.

The organised union believed then, that given a chance for farmers to install small scale solar photovoltaic (PV) in their holdings, it would relieve strain on the grid.

A survey by Solar Magazine actually proved that more farmers across all continents were switching to solar agriculture.

Ed Kennedy, an energy solar expert at Solar Magazine said Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute experiments in the Lake Constance region showed that farmers using solar agriculture increased farm productivity by 160% when compared to staying on the grid.

Currently, a typical South African smallholder farmer on a 5- 10-ha farm usually paid between R9 000 – R12 000 a month on electricity alone.

By its own admission, Eskom had previously said its five power stations and the coal fired power stations had challenges of operation and keeping supply afloat.

Using solar agriculture aka “agrophotovoltaics” it can provide way for smallholder farmers to offset their energy bills, thereby reducing use of fossil fuels” said Ed Kennedy.

Rwanda was the most advanced African country leading the way in solar agriculture according to Jean Marie Takouleu of Afrok 21.

“In Rwanda, for example, as part of a $54 million project, U.S. businessman Howard Graham Buffett built a 3.3 MWp solar photovoltaic power plant and a 2.4 MWh battery storage system. The solar-powered irrigation system benefits 2,000 small farmers in the Nasho area of eastern Rwanda.”

Unfortunately for South African farmers, this was seemingly not a priority for the government. 

Eskom dragged its heels in processing applications for installations coupled by the slow progress in implementing electricity regulations, further added by NERSA bottlenecks of registering  said Agri SA back then. 

Only 13 projects are currently connected and operational, amidst the 2000 small-scale farmers and 30 000 odd commercial farmers. 

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