Frankfort in the Free State has been experiencing less frequent load shedding thanks to an independent power producer in the area, Rural Maintenance. The company has been managing power distribution in the town for over a decade and was contracted by the Mafude Local Municipality.
Rural Maintenance apparently buys electricity from four local solar farms at a lower tariff than Eskom charges and sells this to Mafube Municipality.
However, in an interview with radio station 702, the company’s CEO, Chris Bosch, said that Eskom is unhappy with the arrangement as it costs the state-owned power utility money when power is only purchased at night and when the solar farms are unable to meet the town’s demand.
To find resolution, the company, together with the municipality’s business forum, will meet with Eskom and its representatives in the Johannesburg High Court. The company is seeking an urgent application to stop Eskom from taking complete determination over the frequency of load shedding in Frankfort.
The primary dispute revolves around whether the private power company can implement its own load-shedding schedules. Bosch has suggested that the outcome of this case could set a precedent for the future of independent power producers (IPPs) in South Africa.
It seems that Eskom is worried that many more towns would want to find a source of power from both IPPs and Eskom. Apparently, Eskom believes that this would erode the revenue it currently receives from municipalities.
According to Bosch, Eskom’s concerns are not with custom load shedding schedules, but with new solar power being brought online. Sometimes, the local solar farms generate more power than the region needs, resulting in no load shedding being implemented.
The surplus power could be put into the grid, Bosch says, but it seems that Eskom is resisting this too, perhaps for the same reason.
Bosch says that it is “critical to get a judgment in our favour” because “people are really tired of Eskom not being able to supply electricity but then creating all sorts of obstacles when other people make their own plans.”