How far are SA's metros from taking advantage of the IPP 100MW waiver? Not very

Eyewitness News spoke to the country's big metros about their plans to release themselves from Eskom's shackles. Only two seem to be making any headway.

Eyewitness News asked each of South Africa’s eight metros for an update on their plans to wean themselves off Eskom’s supply. Picture: vencavolrab78/

CAPE TOWN - The marathon to become South Africa’s first energy self-sufficient metropole is on and the cities of Cape Town and Ekurhuleni are seemingly ahead of the pack.

Municipalities have been able to procure power from independent providers since 2020. In August 2021, South Africa expanded its licence exemption for independent power producers from 1 megawatt (MW) to up to 100MW.

Eyewitness News asked each of South Africa’s eight metros for an update on their plans to wean themselves off Eskom’s supply. The capital city, Pretoria lags far behind and Bloemfontein has remained quiet.

“One of our greatest challenges in adding capacity to the grid is the time that it takes for any energy project to receive the necessary approvals and commence construction,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address on Eskom in July this year. But now that energy providers no longer need a licence to produce up to 100MW and municipalities are able to source power straight from independent energy producers, our eight metros have no excuse but to get on with the job of finding alternatives to Eskom.

Cape Town has received a lot of attention as it searches for a preferred bidder for a 300MW tender, while the Ekurhuleni metro has already signed deals with 46 independent power generating companies amounting to nearly 700MW, with many set to come online later this year.

eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, and Buffalo City metros are all in varying stages of seeing what’s available on their local menu of renewable energies. But with its big budget, Johannesburg’s still learning from Cape Town, Tshwane still appears to be back at the drawing board and after a month of requests, Mangaung is yet to get back to us.

The Buffalo City metro told Eyewitness News it was worried that if it did not invest in other forms of energy, big business would pull out of East London, leaving the coastal economy to die.

East London’s municipal officials say they’ve got a good relationship with Eskom when it comes to sticking to its load shedding schedule, but with three-hour outages at a time and no other power providers, the rural metro knows it needs to get moving on renewables.

Buffalo City's Samkelo Ngwenya said: "We're taking a bit of a battering because our network is so interconnected, we are very much vulnerable. There's definitely a political will."

With Mercedes-Benz producing its cars in East London since 1954, Ngwenya says they can't survive without big business.

"If we were to lose any our big guns, business-wise, it would be catastrophic for us," Ngwenya said.

But Buffalo City insists it’s working on a power plan and a request for information was signed off to find out if its area was best suited to solar, gas or wind.

"We've got the land, we've got the will and we've got the resources. It's just a question of us now looking at who else is out there in the market that can help us," Ngwenya said.

Until then, East London remains at Eskom’s beck and call.

One of the country's top energy experts has given what the metros are doing for independent power production the big thumbs up.

Eyewitness News asked Stellenbosch University's Sampson Mamphweli to review and consider the findings of our interviews and research on all eight of the country's metropoles.

Mamphweli is the director of Stellenbosch University's Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies.

"I've checked your findings and Cape Town and Ekurhuleni are ahead of the pack. For Cape Town, that's partly because they have been doing this for quite some time, so they've got some lessons from way back," Mamphweli said.

He says all the right ingredients are there for metros to produce power.