Private power companies could double generation without government restrictions

Research by EE Business Intelligence has found that government and regulators are getting in the way of private companies and municipalities that have the ability to generate their own power.

This is a missed opportunity to allow these power generators to help Eskom mitigate the national power crisis.

A survey of 239 prospective municipal and private generators published by Meridian Economics found that up to 5,000MW of additional generating capacity could be made available if the government were simply to increase the current restrictions upon these power providers that force them to generate between 1MW and 50MW capacity.

This would roughly double the current renewable energy generation from independent power providers.

These groups also complained that getting a license from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) is incredibly difficult and costly, further hampering the ability of independent power providers to contribute to the national energy grid.

Energy availability factor continues to decline

To put the 5,000MW figure into perspective, South Africa’s most recent load-shedding period was caused by 14,748MW of capacity being out due to unplanned maintenance, breakdowns, and outage delays.

An extra 5,000MW would therefore not be nearly enough to solve the energy crisis in South Africa, but it would help significantly.

Energy expert Chris Yelland recently told Biznews that Eskom’s energy availability factor continues to decline year-on-year.

He therefore believes that while South Africa experienced its worst-ever year of load-shedding in 2020, 2021 could be even worse.

“The best thing that I think one can hope for is that Eskom could stabilise this energy availability factor at the current low levels,” said Yelland.

Stage 8 a possibility

Power expert Ted Blom concurs with Yelland that 2021 could be the worst year of load-shedding yet, and speculates that Stage 8 load-shedding is a possibility.

He explained that Eskom can absorb 11,000MW of electricity shortages before it implements load-shedding, whereas Eskom’s outlook for the next three months projects about 20,000MW worth of outages.

This 9,000MW deficit can result in stage 6 or 8 load-shedding, Blom said.

Yelland, however, believes that reaching stage 8 load-shedding is not likely.

“You can’t write it off. But to say that we are heading for that is premature,” Yelland said.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha has also quashed speculation regarding stage 8 load-shedding, highlighting that the power utility’s maintenance plan makes provision for 14,000MW of breakdowns.

“That will give us stage 2 or stage 3 load-shedding. In the worst-case scenario we have prepared for stage 4 load-shedding with 15,000MW of breakdowns,” he said.

“For stage 8 load-shedding to occur will require a lot of breakages of Eskom’s equipment – north of 20,000MW. We have not seen that.”

Now read: Eskom union blames CEO De Ruyter for load-shedding

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Private power companies could double generation without government restrictions