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Six SA energy crisis solutions happening now, or (hopefully) soon

Six SA energy crisis solutions happening now, or (hopefully) soon
Eskom pylons. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

Hot on the heels of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, representatives of Eskom and the National Energy Crisis Committee provided a progress update to address South Africa’s electricity crisis.

It is self-evident that rolling blackouts are not improving or being ameliorated with any noticeable haste. Acknowledging the myriad, complex challenges, representatives of Eskom and the National Energy Crisis Committee, shared updates on Friday, 17 February, about some of their progress since President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address. 

Thomas Conradie, the utility’s acting Head of Generation, shared a broad update on South Africa’s energy supply disaster status. “We have seen that our total unplanned unavailability is hovering around quite high 17,000MW, so… we are still forced to continue applying Stage Three load shedding during daytimes. And then also escalate towards Stage Four load shedding over the evening peak, from four o’clock in the afternoon till five o’clock the next morning,” he said. 

Conradie added: “We have had a number of units that have returned also to service and we are also planning – still today – to return Duvha [Power Station unit] two, which has been out for a considerable period due to a forced outage, as well as Lethabo [Power Station unit] four, which comes back from an outage that we intend to return. This will give some relief.”

“The situation is such that we have been dispatching diesel a lot during this past week, and equally using our pump storage, although the pump storage is looking healthier than what we have seen before, as we approach the weekend,” he said.

Read in Daily Maverick:Rolling blackouts — here are your options and what they are likely to cost you

Six updates on the Energy Action Plan

Rudi Dicks, Head of the Project Management Office (PMO) in the Presidency, outlined updates to six aspects of the Energy Action Plan, as well as broader efforts to tackle the energy crisis:

  • Request for proposals (RFP) for battery storage due by March. 

“On the RFP for the battery storage; that was a commitment that we’ve given off to sign on, specifically those deviations or exemptions that were required. That has now been finalised. All approvals have been done. The battery storage in terms of our conversation with the Independent Power Producers (IPP) office means that the RFP will go out by the end of February… we expect quite a positive market response to that RFP.” 

  • Eskom’s approval to be exempt from Electricity Regulations on New Generation Capacity

“Eskom has received approval to be exempted from the new gen[eration] regulations, and that, of course, allows them to do quite a bit of emergency procurement and a number of other interventions. This is an important step,” said Dicks.  

  • Eskom in contracting stages of procuring 400MW     

Dicks noted that they’ve asked colleagues at Eskom generation “to give us a sense of what’s happened with the standard offer and emergency procurement”. 

“I’m pleased to say that there’s been quite an interest from the market for either one of the programmes… and we now have an indication of close to 400MW of the initial response. These conversations are in contracting stages. This will pick up… but for now, Eskom is in the process of potentially finalising up to about 400MW through both the standard offer purchase and the emergency purchase [programmes].” 

  • Finalising a ‘one-stop shop’ for generation projects applications

Dicks highlighted what he called a critical step, saying: “This week coming, we will see quite a bit of work done on the one-stop shop for energy and particularly, the first phase of launching this and creating a one-stop entity… for all applications around generation projects.” 

At present, interested parties have to jump over bureaucratic hurdles that take them from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, to Water and Sanitation. The aim of the “one-stop shop” accordingly, is to streamline this process.

  • SSEG, feed-in tariffs and wheeling

In the week ahead Dicks is “hoping to see potentially a much more significant engagement on two key frameworks that are going to be there… that will engage with the National Energy Regulator South Africa (Nersa)”. 

“This relates to the Small-Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG) and the billing framework. That’s also going to be linked to a continuation and the finalisation of a feed-in tariff proposed methodology.” 

He added: “The wheeling framework again, having, you know, brought in many colleagues – some of you here who are experts – into developing a wheeling framework that also would require Nersa to put out for public comment. 

But all three of these will provide significant guidelines to distributors – both Eskom and municipal distributors – around options to support them in getting households and businesses off the grid. And this again is linked to what National Treasury may announce (in the budget speech).” 

  • Operationalisation of an Eskom national transmission company by April 

Dicks’ final point was that as part of Eskom’s beleaguered reform and reconfiguration, that the National Energy Crisis Committee has set itself a “timeframe for the finalisation… issuing of the licence and operationalisation of the transmission company” by 31st March. 

“Its operation is dependent on getting a licence or licences, depending on the different aspects of its functions and powers. We’ve got the nod from Nersa to publish those licence applications for public comment over the next 30 days.” DM/OBP

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Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    There are existing IPP that at times have more MW available than their contract allows. Why not immediately allow max output and reward the IPP with a standard rate of say R1/kWh for that “extra”? This R1 would only apply to above contract. So if it is a 100MW solar IPP and it can output 103, then grab it…

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