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UPDATE 3-S.Africa's Ramaphosa makes new pledges to tackle power crisis

(Adds detail including on rooftop solar)

July 25 (Reuters) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday made fresh pledges to tackle the country’s worst-ever power crisis, promising to expand generation, slash red tape and buy surplus electricity from private producers.

Ramaphosa has tried to reform South Africa’s ailing power network since taking office in 2018, but he has made little headway and this year outages are set to reach a record level.

In a televised address to the nation, he said additional interventions were needed.

State-owned utility Eskom will over the next year increase its maintenance budget to make its fleet more reliable and hire skilled personnel from the private sector to help with its operations.

It will seek to buy excess power from existing independent power producers and neighbouring countries in the Southern African Power Pool.

The size of an upcoming renewable energy procurement round will be doubled to 5,200 megawatts, and a requirement for a license for embedded generation projects will be scrapped completely to stimulate private investment.

Eskom will develop rules and a pricing structure to encourage the uptake of rooftop solar by businesses and households, and those with solar panels will be able to sell electricity they do not need to Eskom.

The finance minister will outline government plans to deal with Eskom’s 400 billion rand ($23.85 billion) debt burden at the October mid-term budget, Ramaphosa said.

Despite steps to make electricity supply more competitive, the government still views Eskom as its mainstay and the transmission grid will remain state-owned.

Ramaphosa said: “Our ultimate objective is to achieve long-term energy security, so that we never have to experience an electricity shortage again.”

$1 = 16.7725 rand Additional reporting by Bhargav Acharya Writing by Alexander Winning Editing by Marguerita Choy

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