Eskom spent more than R20 million to stop load-shedding during King Zwelithini’s memorial service

Power utility Eskom spent over R20 million on additional generation capacity in order to suspend load-shedding for the memorial service of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Eskom ceased load-shedding for four hours on Thursday as an extraordinary measure to “allow the nation to witness a key and significant historical event”.

The utility on Friday told MyBroadband it had a supply shortfall of approximately 1,500MW between 9:45 and 14:16, the exact period for which load-shedding was suspended on Thursday.

In order to make up for this shortage, Eskom had to ramp up its open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).

OCGTs draw and compress air which is then used to combust diesel which creates gases that can rotate turbines to generate electricity.

Because these require diesel to run, they can be very expensive to operate over long periods, which is why they are typically only used during emergencies or peak periods.

A previous investigation by News24 found that Eskom had spent R47.7 billion on diesel used in OCGTs between 2009 and 2019.

Cost of operation

Since each of the OCGT units used by Eskom can provide around 150MW of electricity, Eskom had to utilise nine units during the memorial to meet the electricity supply demand.

Of these, five units were its own, while power from four others came from independent power producers (IPPs).

Eskom told MyBroadband it costs around R500,000 to operate a single OCGT unit for an hour.

This would equate to R2.25 million per unit for the four and a half hours during which load-shedding was implemented.

Therefore, the estimated cost of running nine of these units would be around R20.25 million.

Only possible during middle of the day

Eskom told MyBroadband that the suspension of load-shedding was only possible because the memorial service had taken place in the middle of the day.

“Suspending load-shedding was only possible given the time of the day when demand was relatively low, and indeed for the short duration of the event,” the utility stated.

It emphasised that this exercise could not be undertaken every day.

“Eskom made an exception to help the country in general and the Zulu nation in particular to pay its respects to the departed monarch at this difficult and historical moment in the life of the Zulu nation,” Eskom said.

Below are images of Eskom’s Ankerlig and Gourikwa OCGT power stations.

Now read: South Africa to get 3 powerships to solve load-shedding problems

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Eskom spent more than R20 million to stop load-shedding during King Zwelithini’s memorial service