SA will avoid worst-case load shedding scenario in winter, says Electricity Minister Ramokgopa
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said he was ‘chuffed’ about the progress being made to address the energy crisis during a media briefing on Sunday. Ramokgopa said the country would survive winter without experiencing the worst-case scenario of load shedding, and that Eskom was surpassing performance expectations.
Briefing the media in Pretoria on Sunday 9 July, Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa was upbeat for a third week running.
“We are surpassing our expectations in relation to the performance of the units and we are more than confident that we should be able to survive the winter. We will not experience the worst-case scenario as we had projected,” he said. Peak winter demand was projected at 34,000 megawatts, but has been down to 30,000MW.
Ramokgopa said the country was keeping an escalation of power cuts at bay due to Eskom producing enough energy to accommodate planned maintenance. “As a result of improved generation capacity now, we have an additional space to do planned maintenance,” he said.
Load shedding stages staying and alternating between stages 1 and 3 is a positive indication that there is progress. “With that combination, we have been able to take out twice the number of megawatts that we have planned and this is a testimony to the fact that this recovery is sustainable and enduring,” he said.
Projected forecast vs reality
Ramokgopa said using the forecast about load shedding in the winter season as a reference, there are improvements.
The reduction in the number of trips of failing units is a positive. “In that projection, the best-case scenario suggested that we should be in a position to keep the number of trips of failing units to 15,000 megawatts, and we can see that consistently we have been right at 15,000 megawatts or less and one of the days we recorded just below 14,000 megawatts.” This also contributes to ramping up planned maintenance.
Partial load losses are also being reduced. “The unit will not be out, it will be running and giving megawatts but it will not be giving megawatts at the designed capacity,” he said.
The winter outlook projected that the peak focus could be roughly 34,000MW, but the highest peak that has been reached so far is 30,861MW, on 3 July, said Ramokgopa. “It is not just a condition about the weather, but it is about the judicious nature of an average household and South African businesses contributing to this effort,” he said.
Regarding units at risk, Ramokgopa said they are going to reduce this figure. “As we do that planned maintenance, we are also going to reduce the number of units that are at risk,” he said.
Outage slips are one of the biggest improvements, said Ramokgopa. Outage slip refers to the failure of a unit to come back on line as determined by Eskom. “When we started and the President introduced the portfolio of the ministry of electricity, we were sitting at 2,900 megawatts which is almost three stages of load shedding that are locked in these outage slips. Now we are at 1,351 megawatts and we want to improve it,” he said.
“The improvements you are seeing are not an act of God, these are people at work doing everything possible to make sure that we resolve this energy crisis.”
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One year on
Ramokgopa noted that it has been one year since the implementation of the energy action plan and it was important to share some of the achievements and progress made.
“We have been able to mobilise private sector players and over 100 of them are working with us, that in part is to help us recover the units but also to ensure that they are able to transmit their knowledge to station managers and junior engineers so that they can run it on their own,” he said.
Ramokgopa said they were strengthening issues around accountability and one of the methods is the weekly media briefings he provides. “In addition to what is legislated and in addition to corporate governance, I think it is important that we reach out to the country to take you on a journey on the kind of improvements or lack of improvements that we are making,” he said.
Regarding reforms, Ramokgopa said that the President had indicated that significant reforms will be introduced. “The removal of the cap on the embedded generation projects side, we have seen an aggressive pipeline of robust and credible projects that are coming from the private sector,” he said.
Open-cycle gas turbines are being engaged with less often. “It is only during periods where there is severity, especially during the evening peak, that is when we engage them. This is testimony to the fact that the units that are meant to generate these electrons are essentially working,” he said. At the ANC national executive committee meeting on 8 July, Ramokgopa said the burning of less diesel than anticipated has saved the fiscus some money.
Kusile units will also be returned, with Unit 5 being returned in October, units 1 to 3 in November, and the Medupi Unit in December, he said. Ramokgopa also said that Eskom had prioritised 25 transformers for an additional 12,000MW of capacity into the grid by 2028.
The issues around the feed-in tariffs were also being addressed and the framework is being finalized. “The average person installs a PV and there is only so much you can consume, so in many instances, there will be additional excess generation capacity that is sitting idle and now we are making it possible to feed it back into the grid and pay you,” he said.
Electricity demand is expected to go up on Monday, with a sharp dip in temperature being forecast around the country. Ramokgopa said the demand is not expected to rise above 30,000MW, which is still below the 32,000MW base case forecast in Eskom’s winter plan.
‘Chuffed about the progress’
Ramokgopa concluded the briefing by reiterating the commitment to end load shedding. “We are chuffed about the progress we are making. We have achieved the first assignment that the President has given us, the President said ‘reduce the intensity of load shedding’ and that’s a trick,” he said.
“The President said ‘reduce the frequency of load shedding, there is no tick there. We have not gotten to a stage where there is 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity supply and we will not be expedient in doing that,” he said. DM