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South African town forced to reduce solar energy production

Riviera Solar Farm in Tweeling, some 22 km from Frankfort in the Free State, on May 9, 2023   -  
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South Africa

A South African town was forced to shut down part of its power-generating solar panels to comply with national grid's Eskom schedule of daily blackouts.

For the local energy distributor, wasting precious energy will have consequences for businesses.

3. SOUNDBITE 1 - Gugu Mokoena, General Manager of private electricity distributor, Rural Free State (female, English, 33 sec):

"The court refusing us or Eskom refusing us to continue with this. It means load shedding, and with load shedding, it means that the businesses won't have, some of them will have to consider closing shop because then they will be reliant on diesel which is expensive. And that will mean, that would mean job losses for the community of Mafube", admits Gugu Mokoena, General Manager of private electricity distributor, Rural Free State.

Nationwide power cuts in South Africa can last up to 12 hours a day.
Many businesses cannot afford the fuel to keep generators running for hours on end.

"We have lost chickens, it was cycle one, it was in January. I lost I think about five, not exactly, but it's plus or minus 5000 chickens, in both three houses. In a house it was a high mortality in house one, high mortality in house two, high mortality in house three due to load shedding" said Gary Mbundire , Manager at a chicken farm in Frankfort.

Local residents and businesses started using locally produced energy from the solar power plant last February in a bid to mitigate the impact of nationwide blackouts imposed by Eskom.

"If they are not going to allow us to use the solar farm or to use our own electricity, we don't have any choice, we will have to take the law into our own hands and it's a matter of survival. We cannot, we cannot allow Eskom and NERSA (National Energy Regulator of South Africa, Ed.) to prevent us from solving the problem that was created by Eskom. They can't produce any electricity and we are not allowed to use the electricity that we produce. It doesn't make sense", threatened local farmer Hans Pretorius

South Africa's leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, accused Eskom of acting "like a village bully" in this case, preferring to protect its monopoly to embracing additional generation capacity.

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