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Your summer electricity outlook: Good to bad to worse

Your summer electricity outlook: Good to bad to worse
High voltage electricity cables alongside the Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. Kusile coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, South Africa, on Friday, May 5, 2023. Debt-strapped Eskom is currently implementing daily blackouts because its dilapidated power plants are unable to supply enough electricity to meet demand and it doesn't have the money to invest in capital equipment. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eskom presented its load shedding summer outlook and state-of-the-system briefing on 27 September. Circle Stage 4 quite often in the coming months as more plants are taken out for maintenance.

1. The Good

According to Eskom’s Summer Outlook Briefing on 27 September, it will reduce load shedding levels.

Units at Kusile are expected to return 2,880MW (just more than two stages of reduced load shedding) by the end of the year.

A partnership between the government and the Energy Council works well as skills are being deployed into power stations to complement Eskom’s teams.

The council has run projections to show that the peaking power plants (open-cycle gas turbines) can be run much harder to even out the “load factor”. But it will require additional funding.

Eskom is already blowing R3.5-billion a month on diesel, and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is unlikely to stump up for more.

2. The Better

Sharper and modernised energy incentives. Smart meters to help you control your consumption are in the test phase.

According to Eskom, a pilot project at Lonehill in Johannesburg is going well. In return for voluntary load curtailment at high-demand times, participants do not get cut at scheduled times. During load curtailment, you have just enough energy for your TV, Wi-Fi and other essentials.

The Eskom team has stabilised, and senior executives appear to be gelling and are focused, although there’s a fight between the board and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan about the Eskom CEO role.

Read more: How to beat load shedding at home… and other ideas

Medupi, Lethabo, Matimba and the peaking power plants have attained system stability and are regarded as the flagship plants.

Small-scale embedded generation projects are encouraged, with the export of excess energy onto the grid almost ready. Nersa has developed a net billing framework.

(Cape Town has wheeled the first privately produced electrons onto the city’s grid.)

3. The Even Better

The transition at Eskom is under way with the National Transmission Company licensing.

As Ethan van Diemen reported, Eskom installed the first microgrid in the Northern Cape during winter. More are planned. These are the future of electrification and energy security.

Energy efficiency programmes and power alerts are driving behaviour change, says Eskom.

A virtual energy wheeling project with Vodacom is a prototype for the future.

Community co-ops to deal with energy theft and loss are being piloted to seed infrastructure ownership with communities.

4. The Bad

Load shedding is projected to average Stage 4 for summer, but could surprise us.

If unplanned outages reach the worst-case scenario (above 17,000MW), Stage 7 may be implemented.

The projected 2023 energy availability factor of 60% is below the goal of 65%. Eskom projects a factor of 75% for 2025.

5. The Ugly

Stage 6 load shedding was implemented for 39 of 153 days in winter – 43% of winter hours had unplanned losses of between 15GW and 16.5GW.

Don’t expect any energy from Koeberg until well into 2024. Unit 1 will be commissioned by 3 November, but Eskom will take Unit 2 off for maintenance and repairs four days later.

The Tutuka, Duvha, Majuba, Kusile, Matla, and Kendal power stations are priorities but remain unstable.

Eskom said storms like those in the Western Cape over the weekend present unexpected challenges.

Hot weather also harms sensitive equipment. The weather service is predicting a hot summer. Over the past year, rainfall patterns worldwide have been weird and dangerous, just like the Western and Eastern Cape over the past two weeks.

Reuters reported on 28 September that four Eskom plants are breaching emissions limits.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    And now we are supposed to be thankful for stage 4 loadshedding. Failure is the new normal, thank you ANC.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    ONCE AGAIN Drivel!

  • Denise Smit says:

    As far as has been published so far the energy availability factor is far below 60%. If the smart meters is compulsary which has been said by the minister is will be very bad. Running open gas turbines at full capacity all of the time to put up a show of success for the ANC/EFF government can not be a success and we the taxpayer will have to fund it. There is no good. Your article is window dressing the failures which is still going on. Denise Smit

  • Arno Stijlen says:

    The latest diesel price increase as well as the new projected diesel price increases for October reflects the desperate situation of the government in power to secure votes to remain in power. Notwithstanding all of the usual market factors that determines the fuel prices in this country its also a form of additional or indirect taxation to fund the ongoing burning of diesel to keep the county’s lights on. Any case, it is what it is and nothing anyone can really do about it. On a positive side however, the county has progressed since 94 and we are now a free society based on the implementation of democracy!

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