Despite its load-shedding exemption, electricity disruptions at Toyota South Africa’s component suppliers has cost it more than 3,600 vehicles since January. “If our suppliers can’t supply, we go down. We’ve lost about 3,500 vehicles since January and had to scrap about 151 vehicles because the supply disruption came at a part in the process where the vehicles were damaged,” Toyota SA Motors CEO Andrew Kirby said on Friday.
He was speaking during electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s visit to its plant in Prospecton, south of Durban. Kirby said Toyota SA had a “constructive relationship” with the eThekwini municipality which supported its load-shedding plan that reduced its energy consumption, and saw the company cutting about 38% over the past five years. However, the company was still battling other issues, mainly components suppliers whose high energy demands could not be met by alternative energy sources.
Along with the quality of the supply, Kirby said challenges with the distribution network and infrastructure were affected by the April 2022 floods. Toyota SA made temporary arrangements where some substations had burnt out but was still experiencing voltage dips that were affecting equipment. The company scouted the country for stable power lines where it has made inroads.
Kirby said Toyota SA was moving towards a carbon neutral and 100% renewable energy future and has offered to accelerate the concept of “willing tariff” to the government. “In our site here we’re already generating power we can’t use so is there a way of having a feeding tariff whereby we can supply back into the grid? We need to accelerate those types of concepts. “We’ve made offers to national, provincial and eThekwini municipality to find a way of forming a public-private partnership where we can support the maintenance of infrastructure in our area because we know capacity is an issue.
We need to think creatively about how we collaborate to find solutions not just for our industry but the country,” said Kirby. Ramokgopa conceded that load-shedding was undermining the viability of automotive plants and potential for investments to be redirected to the international market. He was working with the provincial government and the eThekwini municipality to find alternative energy solutions that would ease the impact of load-shedding on the automotive industry, while it was important to reduce their demands on the system.
“It is important that we work with the industry to ensure that there is some degree of relief for uninterrupted and quality energy supply. That will relieve the grid and bring down the stages of load-shedding,” he said. Ramokgopa said Toyota SA was exempt from load-shedding given its significance and contribution to the country’s GDP.
Exemptions were granted to Mercedes-Benz in Buffalo City, and in Tshwane where Ford, Mercedes and Nissan were exempt. “This illustrates that the municipalities have an appreciation of the significance of this industry because they are some of the biggest employers in the country. “We want to provide alternative sources of energy supply to relieve the grid and reduce the stages of load-shedding and the economy can benefit from those efforts.
” Ramokgopa pledged that his department would be ready to assist Toyota SA. “They are running their own solutions with regards to providing alternative energy. They want to provide all their alternative sources [but] they will still be tied to the grid.
They have an intention of drawing 100% of their energy requirements by 2029 so they are on an aggressive path and they’re also anticipating the possibility of carbon borders where they want to export to other jurisdictions in the world. “The load-shedding crisis has given momentum to their efforts to invest in a decarbonisation and greening of the plant so we’re working with them closely,” he said. KwaZulu-Natal department of economic development, tourism & environmental affairs MEC Siboniso Duma said it was important for the city to enhance the stability of Toyota SA as it was an “anchor project”.
He said stability was reinforced when they managed to maintain and retain almost all their machinery and workers after the floods. “We also incentivised companies like Toyota to ensure they continue to produce and we don’t load-shed them, so it’s critical that there is a sustainable relationship between eThekwini and the private sector. ” TimesLIVE Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times .
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