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We must be very clear that the future of emaSwati depends on the ability of the present political and technical leadership to take hard decisions to ensure that we have energy.

The development of the country depends 100 per cent on securing enough energy for our present needs and future generations. This will determine whether the kingdom becomes a nation of masters or a nation of slaves within SADC. This will determine if we can attract investments, particularly from South Africa, as it goes through its energy crisis or not. South Africa will come very close to being a failed State simply because of its involvement in BRICS and its stand on geopolitics. Its stand is weakened by the fact that a house divided cannot stand and the ANC is divided and full of sellouts. We should realise that this is our only chance to get funding for our own thermal power plant and get our house in order. In fact, I think this is the single most important project in the country presently.

Botswana took the decision a few years ago and now has a thermal power station. Taiwan must help us in this regard, because I am sure that Mainland China would not hesitate to fund this project had we gone with them. Taiwan has done a lot for Eswatini, but this would represent its greatest contribution. In fact, Taiwan has the technology to reduce carbon emissions from thermal power stations and the ability to make this technology available.  

Lubhuku Thermal Power Plant

According to the EEC website, the Lubhuku Thermal Power Plant project has completed a feasibility study which has determined that a 300MW plant can be constructed comprising 3x100MW. Phase 1 of the project entails the construction of 2x100MW which was expected to commence in 2022. This seems not to have happened, maybe I am wrong. The project’s total investment cost is estimated to be US$684.32m, (E13 460 250 000 in today’s exchange rate) and EEC is expected to contribute 10 per cent equity to the finding of the project.
I would suggest that pension funds and the general public within the country also take up a stake. Thirteen billion is a lot of money for all intended purposes, however, it would be worth it for the future generations of emaSwati. Our present energy generation capacity through hydro power stations is as follows:

* Edwaleni Power Station --------------- 15 MW
* Maguga hydropower Station ---------- 20MW
* Ezulwini hydropower Station --------- 20MW
* Maguduza hydropower Station ------- 5.6MW

The total is 60.6 MW of energy from our hydro power stations. We get a small portion of our locally produced energy from solar, but the bulk, around 70 per cent, is imported from South Africa and Mozambique. With the situation in Eskom, we need to honestly look at putting all our energy into the thermal power plant and possibly other sources such as hydrogen. We are in serious trouble and those who are in decision-making positions must act now and act fast. It’s no longer about the renewal of the supply contract in the year 2025, but about the availability of electricity to sell. They must forget the climate change rhetoric as we need to save our people from a horrible future without energy, which will translate to no development and thus no jobs. Industry and businesses will close down. Our country needs only 300MW to power our livelihood and our very existence but funding is blocked and all kinds of difficulties are put in our way.

Load-shedding in Eswatini

The Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) has introduced load-shedding in Eswatini. According to the EEC website, load-shedding is a deliberate interruption of electricity supply to avoid a countrywide blackout due to high demand. There is nothing normal about load-shedding. It reflects an inherent failure in the power supply system. If you have enough power there would be no need for load-shedding. It hinders development in every way possible. The greatest engine for development is energy. History has shown us that the development and economic growth of rich countries have been achieved through the exploitation of cheap energy sources.

The kingdom of Eswatini has huge deposits of high-quality coal that could be mined to produce cheap energy. The window for this cheap energy source is fast closing as climate change rhetoric intensifies. China has intensified its production of energy through coal so as to maximise what it can achieve with this cheap energy before switching to renewable energy. When they reach this stage of renewable energy, they will make it very difficult for anyone to use fossil fuels and they will sell all the components for renewable energy. We need to move and move fast so that we can attract investments and make enough money with fossil fuel energy to be able to buy renewable energy technology.

Reality of our future

The developed world achieved its development through cheap energy from fossil fuels. There have been great improvements in clean energy solar wind and hydro, but the costs are still too high despite recent considerable reductions. The efficiency and output are still not reliable on days without the sun and the wind output is still not sufficient enough to rely on it 100 per cent. The reality is that we still need coal-powered energy and a lot of it. Only those with cheap energy will survive this last stretch to the year 2050. Everything will run on electricity including cars, buses and all forms of transportation. His Majesty the King last weekend blessed projects worth billions of Emalangeni and we were all excited at the development. The future of these projects depends on an adequate supply of electricity. We can’t be planning our future based on load-shedding. The cost of fuel for generators to keep the lights on during these planned load-shedding episodes is too much. We cannot be taking one step forward and two steps backward. Comment septembereswatini@gmail.com

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