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One year into SA’s Energy Action Plan, Ramokgopa says 56% of objectives are complete or ‘on track’

One year into SA’s Energy Action Plan, Ramokgopa says 56% of objectives are complete or ‘on track’
Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa briefs the media in Tshwane on 6 August 2023. (Photo: GCIS / Jairus Mmutle)

In the year since President Cyril Ramaphosa launched South Africa’s Energy Action Plan, only 16% of the actions it lays out have been completed, while a further 40% are considered ‘on track’.

It has been a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Energy Action Plan (EAP) to end rolling blackouts and achieve energy security in South Africa. In the progress report issued this week, it was revealed that 56% of the 50 actions laid out in the plan are either complete or “on track” – an outcome Minister of Electricity Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has described as “a big positive”.

Speaking at a media briefing on Sunday, 6 August, Ramokgopa said eight actions had been completed (16%), while 20 are on track (40%), meaning that progress was keeping up with the timelines set out for these tasks.

The Energy Action Plan is the responsibility of the National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom), headed by Ramokgopa.

“I think we must engender in the discourse the need for us to be transparent, the need for us to be accountable. It’s one thing for the President to unveil the Energy Action Plan; it’s quite another to report against the targets of the Energy Action Plan, and we really want to normalise this exercise,” he said.

 

Of the remaining 22 actions, 12 are delayed but “progressing well” (24%); eight are “off track” (16%); and two have not been started (4%). Ramokgopa said it was a “big negative” to have some projects off track, and that interventions were under way to address this.

Ramokgopa’s address came shortly before an announcement on Sunday afternoon that Stage 3 rolling blackouts would be implemented from 4pm on Sunday until 5am Monday. Thereafter, Stage 1 outages would be implemented from 5am until 4pm, and Stage 4 from 4pm until 5am, on Monday and Tuesday, heading into Wednesday.

While Ramokgopa portrayed the outcomes of the EAP’s one-year progress report as positive, DA Shadow Minister of Electricity Samantha Graham-Maré took a different outlook, saying they represented a “paltry 16% success rate”. In a statement on 2 August, she claimed that Eskom’s current energy availability factor was lower than during the same period in 2022.

“While the Necom celebrates its extremely limited achievements, Eskom’s latest 52-week forecast indicates that all but three weeks of the upcoming year are at a worst-case scenario for severe electricity shortages, resulting in high stages of load shedding,” she said.

“This flies in the face of the ongoing assurances from the ANC government that load shedding will soon be a thing of the past.”

The energy availability factor represents the electricity that is available to be generated, calculated by taking the total possible generation capacity over a given time and deducting the losses that result from generation units being offline.

The Energy Action Plan rests on five key pillars, laid out in the one-year progress report:

  • “Fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply;
  • “Enable and accelerate private investment in generation capacity;
  • “Fast-track the procurement of new generation capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage;
  • “Unleash businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar; and
  • “Fundamentally transform the electricity sector to achieve long-term energy security.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramokgopa outlines ‘twin challenges’ to defeating rolling blackouts

Fixing Eskom and energy availability

According to the progress report, the performance of Eskom’s generation fleet is showing sustained improvement, with unplanned capability losses being reduced from more than 18,000MW to less than 16,000MW.

“We have moved from a historic low of 48% energy availability factor when we started this work, and now we’re averaging 60% of the energy availability factor,” Ramokgopa said.

“Then we’ve seen the reduction … in the unplanned capacity loss factor … When we were in May [2023] we were about the high end of 17,000MW [in unplanned losses] and now we’re at the low of 15,000MW.”

Units that have been out of action at the Kusile and Medupi power stations are expected to return to operation on an expedited basis. Unit 5 at Kusile will return to service by October this year, while units 1 to 3 will return by November. Unit 6 will be ready to operate in May 2024.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Accused stack up in R2.2bn Kusile tender fraud case as No 18 appears in court

“We have taken steps again to ramp up the performance of the open cycle gas turbines [OCGTs]. Of course the downside is that … these are very expensive. The … result [is that] we are saving the South African economy, but that’s not a sustainable measure. I want to emphasise the sustainable measure is to ensure that we improve the performance of all these other units; we lift the energy availability factor,” Ramokgopa said.

Daily Maverick recently reported that Eskom had already used R12.4-billion on diesel to run its emergency generation fleet just four months into the 2023/24 financial year. This represented nearly half its budget for the year.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Billions blown as Eskom burns through its emergency-use diesel

The progress report indicated that the load factor of the OCGTs had been increased to ensure they could be used more often to reduce rolling blackouts. Additional funding has been allocated for diesel for the rest of the financial year.

“National Treasury has finalised a substantial debt relief package … for Eskom, totalling R254-billion, alongside debt relief for municipalities and a move towards unbundled, cost-reflective tariff,” the report said.

Of this debt relief package, R22-billion has been ringfenced for the purchase of diesel, Ramokgopa said, while a further R8-billion comes from the electricity tariff increase approved by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa.

Private investment, renewable energy and household solar

Following the amendment of the Electricity Regulation Act in December 2022, removing the licensing threshold for generation facilities, more than 100 private-sector generation projects are in the pipeline, according to the progress report. This represents more than 10GW of new capacity that will begin connecting to the grid from 2023.

“Eskom has put in place a mechanism to buy power from companies that have extra capacity available through the Standard Offer programme … and the Emergency Generation Programme. Out of these, we have already unlocked about 400MW immediately available, and then also 600MW is in the process of contracting,” Ramokgopa said.

Power Purchase Agreements have been signed with 19 projects from “bid window 5” of the renewable energy programme, while six projects from “bid window 6” are expected to reach commercial close by September 2023. The last two bid windows should therefore result in a total of 2,300MW of new capacity being constructed.

Rooftop solar capacity in the country is also on the rise, from 2,264MW in July 2022 to 4,412MW in July 2023. This may be attributable to the special tax incentives that the government introduced for businesses and households that instal solar, as well as the revised bounce-back loan scheme intended to help small businesses go solar.

The off-track and not-yet-started

Ramokgopa highlighted areas of progress under each pillar of the EAP. However, he gave little information about the planned actions that were off track or not yet started.

Rudi Dicks, head of the Presidency’s Project Management Office, said one of the tasks that had not been achieved was a mechanism to formally track the rise in rooftop solar use across the country.

“As it is, one of the problems that we sit with is that we didn’t introduce an adequate registration regime, and many of the municipalities were … [late], including Eskom. So, of course, as the crisis perpetuated, many households …[that] could afford, went off the grid, but there was no system for formal registration,” he said.

“What we are trying to do, of course, is introduce this. We have a particular project that we are discussing with the World Bank, with the DMRE [Department of Mineral Resources and Energy], to try and ensure we get more or less the precise number … of [solar] PVs [photovoltaics] that we have across the country.”

During the briefing, Dicks could not provide further information about the actions that were off track or not started. However, a News24 report stated that Necom has not yet developed a net billing framework for private power generators, to regulate how they will be reimbursed for energy fed into the grid.

According to the News24 report, the eight actions that are off track include:

  • Eskom plant performance due to ongoing partial load losses and breakdowns;
  • Efforts to combat crime and sabotage;
  • Land-use authorisation for power projects, which remains very slow;
  • The finalisation of grid queuing rules;
  • Projects in the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Programme, not all of which have reached financial close;
  • Projects in bid window 5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme, not all of which have reached financial close;
  • Progress on further bid windows; and
  • The operationalisation of the National Transmission Company of SA (NTCSA), which has yet to take place. DM
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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Based on the nonsense in his previous statements who who believe anything this man says. Another cadre out of his depth.

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    Apart from doing the obvious urgent requirements – fixing the broken or worn out elements of the existing power stations, what else has Mr. Electricity done? No Niks, nada or Fokol

    Has he implemented new, major innovative green energy solutions – such as Renergen green hydrogen, use of natural gas and other suggestions? No, Niks, Nada or Fokol.

    What he HAS achieved, is to burn all our valuable Diesel reserves – to make the ANC government look better, in view of black-outs and the pending elections coming up next year. Ha, ha, bloody ha.

    Due to these severe Eskom demands Diesel is increasing in price all to the detriment of business – farming and transport, etc. Ha, ha bloody ha.

    Does he deserve any accolades – No, Niks, nada, Fokol.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    When you look at the Off track items, these are the Major items, so we are no better than before, and Improvements that have happened are those started before our”Energy” minioster was involved

    • Daniel de Villiers says:

      Those started before him, or that happened DESPITE him (think rooftop solar, large scale private sector generation projects).

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