Why there is never load-shedding during the President’s state of the nation address

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his state of the nation address (SONA) on 11 February – the day when Eskom announced it has stopped load-shedding as its generation capacity had recovered.

In the days preceding Ramaphosa’s SONA, Eskom implemented stage 2 and stage 3 load-shedding because of a loss of generation units.

Many people found it curious that there is never load-shedding during the President’s state of the nation address.

There are even conspiracy theories that Eskom is keeping the lights on during high-profile events for political reasons.

There is, however, nothing strange about this.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha explained the regulatory code makes provision for accommodating certain changes to load-shedding.

These changes include keeping Parliament and the Union Buildings off load-shedding schedules during events of national importance, like the annual state of the nation address.

Mantshantsha added that Eskom is part of the team that ensures the synchronisation of national events of importance.

“We do take note of these events that include issues of major sporting events, Matric exams, and political importance,” he said.

“While we always try to avoid load-shedding, we take special planning measures around these events of national importance in our country’s democracy.”

OCGT
OCGT

To keep the lights on during Thursday’s state of the nation address, Eskom used its open cycle gas turbines (OCGT).

This is not uncommon. Eskom has been using OCGTs to avoid or reduce the amount of load-shedding for much of the current calendar year.

The only time Eskom had an extended run of not utilising the OCGTs was the 45 days stretching from early September to the first week of December 2020.

Ankerlig Power Station
Ankerlig power station

Eskom’s open cycle gas turbine power stations are powered by diesel and are intended to be used during peak periods and emergency into the Eskom national grid.

Eskom runs a total of 20 open cycle gas turbines which on average generates around 148MW each.

Fifteen of these OCGTs are located at the Ankerlig and Gourikwa gas turbine power stations which can generate over 2,000MW when run at full capacity.

Each open cycle gas turbine burns diesel costing about R500,000 an hour on average. This means if all are OCGTs are used it would amount to R10 million an hour.

Fuel storage tank and concrete bund
Fuel storage tank and concrete bund

Now read: Ramaphosa announces plan to save Eskom and stop load-shedding

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Why there is never load-shedding during the President’s state of the nation address