With Eskom in dire financial straits and straining to meet demand, the government has reverted to courting independent renewable energy producers to help power the economy. President Cyril Ramaphosa, energy minister Jeff Radebe and the Treasury have all recently heralded solar and wind-powered plants as the answer to meeting SA’s future electricity demands, citing falling costs and environmental considerations. The government also needs private investors to help fund new infrastructure: Eskom, which generates about 95% of the nation’s power, cannot afford to maintain its ageing coal-fired plants, never mind build new ones, and the Treasury has no cash to spare. Renewable energy companies have reason to be sceptical. SA initiated one of the world’s most successful renewable-power programmes in 2011, which drew more than R200bn in investment from 112 producers. But projects were stalled for almost three years during former president Jacob Zuma’s rule as he and Eskom officials pushed t...

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