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Lunch with Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis

Sponsored by Webber Wentzel, this engagement featured Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, who shared with our members his team’s steadfast commitment to Cape Town’s economic growth and prosperity, with a resolute focus on addressing the energy crisis – remove use of the word recently.

Against a backdrop of both local and global challenges that sees rising interest rates, political instability, unemployment and a seemingly never-ending loadshedding cycle – amongst other, Gavin Fitzmaurice, Managing Partner at Webber Wentzel, highlighted Cape Town’s successes and the tenacity and dedication of local government to continue making a real difference in the lives of its people.

The current and dire loadshedding schedule continues to strangle our national economy, heavily impacting unemployment and keeping so many of our citizens trapped in poverty. Mayor Hill-Lewis was emphatic that, whilst our energy crisis is but one on a list of crises, it remains his team’s most urgent and severe priority.

The City’s commitment to ensure Cape Town’s independence from the national grid has seen a recent tender from City to secure an additional 500MW – 700MW of power to accommodate the shortfall during peak demand. This, complemented by the increase in private procurement. January and February this year saw a massive spike in solar installations (a total of 11% of all solar installations since 2013), making it the biggest two months ever for solar installations in Cape Town. City is excited by the growth in the amount of power it could be able to drive from solar installations in the city and, as of a few weeks ago, has started to make its first cash payments to those able to supply the city with power.

In support of this, additional short-term measures include:

  • No limit on the amount of power private citizens can sell back to the city in return for either credit against municipal accounts or cash (month-end EFT).
  • Procurement of quality, cost-effective, bidirectional meters.
  • Increase in speed of registration process via an online portal.

The city is also encouraging private citizens to actively conserve their energy use. Known as ‘power heroes’ this initiative involves the use of a Wi-Fi enabled ripple contract device. Installed in private residences, it will enable citizens to assist city with peak shaving (proactively manage overall demand to eliminate short-term demand spikes). The city will pay an incentive to families who volunteer to assist in this way. In addition, the City’s pilot wheeling project (the delivery of energy from a generator to an end-user located in another area using an existing distribution or transmission network), is currently underway with approximately 10 customers. This phase is set for completion by July/August this year, after which it will be opened to additional customers.

Whilst the focus remains firmly on ending loadshedding, a benefit of moving to renewable energy will see a reduction in carbon emissions and a giant step towards the achievement of environmental goals. The huge investment in renewable energy production is also yielding an influx of international energy companies and the development of local ones. The obvious ripple effect – a whole new category of skills and job creation in Cape Town.

Mayor Hill-Lewis also touched on the recent announcement of Cape Town’s capital budget of R 10.9 billion for the year ahead. The biggest capital budget for the city since before the 2010 Soccer World Cup, it comes with ambitious but necessary targets to equip Cape Town not only with the infrastructure needed currently but, as critically, to accommodate Cape Town’s growing population due to ongoing semigration from other provinces.

Whilst South Africa has its problems, Hill-Lewis remains focused on continuing to build Cape Town’s future by addressing its challenges head-on. He remains confident that, in partnership with corporates and private citizens, Cape Town will see an end to load shedding within the next few years and continue to shine as a living and working example of progress.

The afternoon’s session ended with an interactive Q&A session. It provided our members with the opportunity for further discussion not only with regards to the energy crisis but also on the equally important issues of crime (and how local business can support City’s efforts), future city planning and national unemployment, et. al.

Once again, sincerest thanks to our speakers, sponsors, and members – without any of whom these events would not be possible. We remain committed to facilitating engagement and collaboration between local government and Cape Town business as part of our shared goal of economic growth and prosperity for both our region and country.

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