Johannesburg is considering generating power from sources ranging from sewage to water pipes to help end electricity cuts that shutter shops and cause traffic gridlock.
The options, along with solar power and tripling output from a coal-fired plant on the eastern outskirts, are among those being explored as a national electricity shortage threatens to subject the city to cuts for years. Johannesburg, home to Africa’s biggest stock and bond exchanges and many of the continent’s largest companies, has a metropolitan population of about 8 million.
The situation is a “national issue” and must be approached in new ways, Sol Masolo, a spokesman for City Power, Johannesburg’s electricity distributor, said in an interview. “Now we have a clear focus on projects that we do to mitigate load-shedding,” or scheduled cuts, he said.
Because the South African government delayed a decision on whether to allow national power company Eskom to build new plants more than a decade ago, electricity is now rationed to businesses and city dwellers with areas often blacked out for four hours. Lynne Brown, the minister responsible for Eskom, has said the country can expect the situation to persist for another three years as generating plants are built.