Lower Eskom load-shedding here to stay, assures electricity minister

The lower stages of load-shedding in South Africa are due to improved generation capacity and are not artificial, reports the Sunday Times.

Speaking to reporters at the recent ANC NEC meeting, electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the improvements are due to increased energy availability factor (EAF) and the fact that Eskom has needed to burn less coal.

EAF, known as the capacity factor elsewhere in the world, is a measure of power plant performance — specifically, the proportion of generating capacity online and available for a given period.

“We have lifted the energy availability factor by 12 percentage points — one percentage point amounts to 477MW of additional generation capacity,” said Ramokgopa.

“That is why we are attaining average levels that are just shy of 30,000MW.”

He explained that a significant reason for the improved EAF  is that Eskom has been continually identifying the technical issues that most commonly affect its generating units.

“Once we have isolated what the issues are, we find and deploy the expertise. That is why you are seeing improvements,” said Ramokgopa.

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister of Electricity

Thanks to this, Ramokgopa said, load-shedding is often not happening for two-thirds of the day, and when it does happen, it rarely exceeds Stage 3.

He predicted that these load-shedding levels are unlikely to increase — even while Eskom continues with its planned maintenance.

Ramokgopa also predicted that Eskom was on the right track to ending load-shedding altogether — allowing the economy to grow.

However, what Ramokgopa did not mention is that Eskom was running its open-cycle gas turbine power stations hard.

This is shown in the state-owned power utility’s evening peak statistics.

Energy analyst Anton Eberhard estimates that Eskom is burning over R30 billion of diesel that has not been budgeted for.

“How will this be funded?” he asked.

The last time Eskom implemented stage 4 load-shedding was 11 June 2023.

Eskom has run a schedule of stage 3 power cuts during the evening peak and either stage 1 load-shedding during the day, or no load-shedding at all.

Yesterday, Eskom adjusted its load-shedding schedule to suspend load-shedding from 12:00 until 16:00.

It had previously scheduled stage 1 rotational power cuts during this period and cited “the recovery of some generation capacity” as the reason for this move.

Peter Attard Montalto, Intellidex managing director for capital markets

Private power approvals

In further good news for the electricity grid, The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) recently approved five new private power generation licences that will potentially add 860MW of power to the national grid.

All five will operate photovoltaic solar power plants and faced no objections to their applications.

Three of the five preferred bidders’ sites will be in the North West, while the remaining two will be in the Free State.

This is unsurprising as popular locations like the Northern, Western, and Eastern Cape do not have slots on their transmission grids to support new power providers.

Intellidex managing director for capital markets, Peter Attard Montalto, previously told MyBroadband that investment in these transmission grids is critical — but Eskom is spending less than R1 billion of the R14.5 billion it needs to if it is to significantly upgrade them.

Additionally, while the transmission grids in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal still have lots of space, solar IPPs prefer the other provinces as they offer greater efficiency.

Scatec sub-Saharan Africa general manager Jan Fourie said solar resources in the Northern Cape are around 10% better than elsewhere in the country.

Montalto and Ramokgopa have criticised private power producers’ fixation on the Northern Cape, saying they should build where there was transmission capacity.

Ramokgopa has said South Africa has better solar resources than anywhere in Europe, regardless of where you build the power plant.


Now read: South Africa approves 860MW of private power

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Lower Eskom load-shedding here to stay, assures electricity minister