Power issues spur further investment from South Africa’s MTN

Power issues spur further investment from South Africa’s MTN

South African operator MTN has responded to the country’s ongoing power blackouts with further investment in generators in an attempt to make up for the deficiencies of state electricity provider Eskom.

The company says it plans to invest R1.9 billion (US$101.3 million) by the middle of the year in generators, batteries and renewable energy to cushion it against rolling power blackouts.

Eskom’s issues with load shedding, as the power blackouts are known, make regular headlines in the local press. Eskom says its coal-fired power stations forms the backbone of its generation fleet, but this ageing equipment is not coping well with demand: power cuts reportedly happened on a record 280 days last year.

No rolling blackouts have apparently been enforced for two consecutive weeks. However, according to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, MTN seems to feels that such issues could continue for another three years. Hence what chief executive Ralph Mupita calls “pre-emptively investing in the resilience of our network”. If some level of power independence is successful MTN may even have the opportunity to actually sell some of its excess power back into the grid.

The FT quotes Minerals Council estimates that the private sector now generates 10.4 gigawatts of electricity, close to half of Eskom’s functioning capacity.

The sum to tackle the energy emergency adds to the estimated R2.6 billion (US$138.6 million) MTN has spent on generators in response to vandalism and theft at mobile phone towers and base stations.

In fact as long ago as April 2023 we reported MTN plans to strengthen its network’s resilience to all of these challenges, by installing solar power, batteries and generators, and enhancing security features at base stations.


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