How to end load-shedding — fast

South Africa must urgently launch a project where various mining, energy, industrial, and agricultural companies connect wind and photovoltaic solar power plants with battery storage to the grid.

Energy expert Chris Yelland has proposed a national priority project to build 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy and 5,000 megawatts of battery storage in two years.

Home users would also have to do their part by adding 10% of the 15GW to the grid.

“Detailed modelling shows conclusively that if executed properly and on time, the national priority project proposed will stop load-shedding in its tracks, and provide adequate generation capacity reserve that will serve South Africa in good stead,” Yelland stated.

Yelland said that the proposed plan does not preclude other important levers such as demand-side management, demand response, demand market participation, domestic time-of-use tariffs, and energy efficiency.

The additional 15GW of renewable energy also doesn’t replace existing and planned procurements facilitated by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Independent Power Procurement (IPP) office.

The DMRE and IPP must still bring this capacity online. However, this new power can’t be delivered in the next two years — hence the need for a short-to-medium-term solution.

Although the plan is rough, and the exact breakdown and timing must still be refined, Yelland said it is achievable.

It would also be at relatively low cost to Eskom, municipalities, and South Africa’s national fiscus.

He proposed that the capacity be procured by various sectors as follows:

Sector Capacity
Domestic sector 1.5 GW
Commercial and industrial sector 2.5 GW
Agricultural sector 1.5 GW
Mining sector 3.5 GW
South32 1.5 GW
Sasol 1.0 GW
Arcelor Mittal 1.0 GW
Eskom 1.5 GW
Municipal metros 1.0 GW
Total 15 GW

“Load-shedding in South Africa has become a national crisis, requiring a properly coordinated ‘Marshall Plan’, pulling in all affected stakeholders to become part of the solution,” Yelland said.

Failure to attend to the problem could cause it to escalate from national crisis to national disaster.

“In the worst-case scenario — a partial or a national blackout with all its consequences, including social unrest,” he warned.

Yelland noted that government and Eskom had more than a decade to talk through and address the challenges, but the statistics show the situation is not improving.

“The public and customers of electricity are tired of hearing about why we are having load-shedding, and instead want to hear about how we as a country are going to end load-shedding, and fast.”

Eskom has acknowledged that it can’t solve the problem alone through increased maintenance or delaying the decommissioning of old, poorly performing coal-fired power stations.

“However, feelings of helplessness in the face of load-shedding are completely unwarranted,” said Yelland.

Chris Yelland
Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Business Intelligence

For the project to succeed, Yelland said it would need committed leadership at the highest level of government, supported by an experienced project execution executive team.

He proposed several options for a leadership structure:

  • Eskom leads the project as it did with the “Electricity for All” campaign.
  • Operation Vulindlela inside the Presidency drives the project.
  • Preferred option — a new national command council comprising appointed leaders and experts from government, Eskom, industry and civil society, acting in their professional capacities.

“Until the national priority project has been resolved, the National Command Council should be given the necessary emergency powers to gazette new regulations, amend or suspend existing regulations, remove bottlenecks, and coordinate and execute the project,” Yelland stated.

In addition to the national priority plan to end load-shedding, Yelland said it would be necessary to deal with problems in South Africa’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

These include unrealistic energy availability factor assumptions, unrealistic economic growth and electricity demand forecasts, changes in technology and fossil fuel prices, and delays in rolling out various energy procurement programmes.

“Continuing with the current IRP 2019 generation capacity planning process without intervention therefore poses massive risks to continuity of supply in South Africa, with a resulting high likelihood of significantly increasing load-shedding in the years ahead,” Yelland said.

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How to end load-shedding — fast