Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa visits Eskom’s Ankerlig power station.
- Better plant performance and lower maintenance and demand have led to lower levels of load shedding.
- But its too early to celebrate.
- Plans are afoot to burn more diesel.
- For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.
The lower stages of load shedding over the past week are due, in part, to improved plant performance as well as lower winter maintenance and lower demand.
At his weekly briefing on the energy action plan, Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said:
We have made marginal but significant progress. We reached an energy availability factor (EAF) of 60%. The last time we did this was in September 2022.
The Eskom board had hoped to reach an average of 60% EAF by 31 March. Given the unpredictability of the Eskom plant, it is too early to assume a permanent improvement.
Unplanned losses or breakdowns have decreased over the past week from 18 000MW to around 16 000MW. This still means that close to a third of Eskom’s plant is not functioning due to breakdown.
In an update on the state of the system, Eskom manager Eric Shunmagum said that while breakdowns were lower than the trend, demand was also lower than Eskom had expected at just over 29 000MW against the 30 000MW that had been expected. The cold fronts had also brought very good performance from wind generation, and solar had also done well.
While Eskom had managed to avoid daytime load shedding during the day, reinstating Stage 4 only for the peak and evening, the loss of two units on Friday morning would, unfortunately, require Stage 1 load shedding during the day on Saturday and Sunday. Stage 4 load shedding would kick in at 16:00 on both days.
Shunmagum said planned maintenance had been around 2 500MW, typical of Eskom’s winter plan. In summer, planned maintenance levels are generally 5 000MW or more. The lower-than-anticipated demand was also partly due to the implementation of the Eskom 18.6% tariff increase, which took effect on 1 June.
In his briefing, Ramokgopa reported that work was under way to improve logistics at the open-cycle gas turbine plants to enable more diesel to be moved, stored and burnt. The aim is to increase the load factor of the turbines to 15% from around 10%.
In other progress, Nersa had given the go-ahead for Eskom to proceed with the construction of new solar PV at three existing power stations and battery storage at one. Nersa was also expected to approve several cross-border purchases soon, including 80MW from a power ship moored off Mozambique. He said there were prospects that more energy could be procured from Mozambique.
More than 1 000MW of private power generation projects were in the connection phase, with a further 13 000MW at the Eskom “budget quote” stage. The budget quote is the final cost calculation that informs developers of how much Eskom will charge to connect to the grid, depending on the location and technical specifications of the project. Only after this stage can a developer assess whether their project is viable and likely to be financed.
The budget quote process has been one of the regulatory blockages and previously took six months for Eskom to complete. Eskom has since reduced this to four months to accelerate the addition of new MW on to the grid.
A survey released last week undertaken by Eskom and the industry associations for wind and solar PV power found that 66 000MW of renewable energy projects were in development across the country. Not all of them, however, will come to fruition due to skills, equipment, and grid constraints.