Ladysmith — As South Africa forges on with its infrastructure build, electricity remains a key developmental goal with government aiming to electrify every household in the country, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
The rollout of electricity supply in remote areas is important to improve the lives of people, he added. Zuma was speaking following his first tour of the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme.
"This is an important visit at this significant project," said Zuma, adding that such visits are undertaken to assess progress made in key projects that government is implementing as part of monitoring and evaluation.
"Ingula is a significant part of the infrastructure development plan," he added of the massive plan to turn the country into a massive construction site aimed at primarily developing the country's rural areas.
Zuma's visit follows on an earlier trip to the Medupi power plant in Lephalale, Limpopo. The President was impressed with the progress made at the plant.
"We are winning in our efforts to ensure adequate supply for household use and industrial use," he said, adding that the recent results of Census 2011 had shown that over 80% of the country now had access to electricity compared to the 58% in the 1996 census.
"This is a significant improvement. When we visit such sites it is meaningful for every South African. The importance of electricity cannot be over emphasised," Zuma said, following the tour of the plant that will come on line in 2014 on phased intervals.
The visit, he said, gave people hope that power will come to all households.
"We don't ever want people to doubt the security of supply, it's in the national interest," he said.
Zuma was accompanied to the storage scheme that consists of an upper and lower dam, each with a capacity of approximately 22 millioln cubic metres of water by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters and Eskom CEO Brian Dames among others.
The erratic supply of electricity in previous years had cost the country, the President told a packed marquee at the plant surrounded by lush greenery.
The Ingula project will cost R23 billion. The infrastructure plan involves several SIP including SIP 9: Electricity generation to support socio-economic development. This is so as to accelerate the construction of new electricity generation capacity in accordance with the country's energy plan namely the IRP2010 to meet the electricity generation needs of the country to ensure economic growth as well as to address historical imbalances.
"The project will cost R23 billion. The country's infrastructure plan will change the lives of people," he said, adding that this will provide jobs and grow the economy. "This is a very unique site," he said.
Eskom board member Collin Matjila said the power parastatal has taken note of the importance of sustainable development; hence the parastatal has integrated this into its plans.
"Twenty years from now coal will contribute less to [electricity supply] and renewable energy will play a bigger role," he said, adding that supply will be tight in the short and medium term.
Gigaba agreed with Matjila, adding that security of supply will be tight but that government is working on ensuring supply in the future.
The President unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit to Ingula.