Engineer and energy expert Mthunzi Luthuli said the reasons Eskom has provided for the country’s recent increased load-shedding are unacceptable and do not justify implementing stage 6 load-shedding.
Following several recent breakdowns, Eskom implemented stage 6 load-shedding on Friday, 24 November. The power cuts have since been lowered to stages 3 and 4.
Eskom announced that unplanned breakdowns at units were at 15,901 MW.
However, this level of breakdowns on their own does not equal stage 6 load-shedding, Electricity Minister Kgosienthso Ramokgopa said at a recent media briefing.
He listed a few reasons for the increased load-shedding. The first reason is a sudden uptick in demand of around 1,500 MW.
This unexpected increase was attributed to the heatwave South Africa is currently experiencing, as people were likely using air conditioners more than they usually would.
Ramokgopa said it was an “extraordinary occurrence” to have a “sharp increase” in demand for this period of the year.
This heat not only affected demand but also impacted the performance of some of Eskom’s power stations.
Energy analyst Chris Yelland told News24 that power stations like Matimba, Majuba, Medupi and Kusile rely on dry cooling systems. These power stations are susceptible to variations in temperatures.
In high temperatures, these power stations cannot cool properly and run the risk of overheating. Therefore, their output or power produced is sub-optimal.
However, Luthuli said this reason is “completely unacceptable”.
‘“This is not acceptable, blaming the weather we’ve always had historically. We’ve always had warm summers and cold winters,” he said.
“When it’s cold in winter, they tell us it’s cold, and that’s why we have load-shedding. When it’s hot in summer, they tell us it’s hot, and that’s why we have load-shedding. It’s nonsense.”
Another reason for the increased load-shedding was that Eskom had to replenish its emergency reserves, which had to be used to keep load-shedding at bay during heightened outages due to several breakdowns over the past few weeks.
“Again, this is not an acceptable reason. When operating a national power system, you always use your emergency reserves primarily during peaks,” Luthuli explained.
“You should only be using them during the peak periods – the morning peak and the evening peak – and then you replenish them usually at night after 10:00 when the evening peak is over and on weekends when the demand is low.”
“So giving an excuse that you had to replenish emergency reserves is not really an excuse because that’s something that you should do just as an ordinary course of running a power system.”
This article was first published by Daily Investor and is reproduced with permission.