Return of Kusile Unit 3 a significant load shedding milestone, says Ramokgopa
On Sunday, Eskom was on track to have its longest period in a year without implementing load shedding.
There is light at the end of the tunnel as power utility Eskom continues to suspend load shedding. The power utility had initially planned to return to Stage 2 load shedding at 4pm on Sunday.
However, with the return to service of Kusile Unit 3, the sustained improved generation performance and the lower-than-anticipated demand for electricity, load shedding will remain suspended for another day.
If the power utility manages to stick to the planned schedule, this will be the longest period without load shedding since September 2022 when load shedding was suspended for 59 hours.
“We are now beginning to turn the corner in relation to additional capacity,” Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said at a media briefing on Sunday morning.
“The Kusile units are going to be indispensable to the resolution of this problem and in the short term will help us to reduce the intensity of load shedding.”
The plant went offline last year after a chimney accident at one unit, which affected two other units. The unit was expected to come back online by the end of 2023, but Eskom managed to have it back on service two months early.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Kusile Power Station units to come online by end of the year, says Ramokgopa
The other two units are expected to return online around 3 November, and when operating at full capacity, the three units will generate more than 2,400MW (800MW each) of electricity. This equates to just over two stages of reduced load shedding.
Unit 5 at Kusile will be gradually brought back in December, but Ramokgopa stressed that the unit would still undergo testing and would regularly be taken offline until its performance was satisfactory.
If this unit also returns online with the other three, 3,200MW will be generated, which would surely put a smile on the faces of many South Africans.
Earlier this year, Eskom successfully applied to temporarily bypass the flue-gas desulphurisation unit which cuts sulphur dioxide emissions by as much as 99% at three units at Kusile as it conducts repairs at the plant.
Sulphur dioxide is linked to ailments ranging from asthma to heart attacks. In 2021, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said Eskom was the world’s biggest emitter of the pollutant.
“I must emphasise that although we are seeking exemptions, the net result of this exemption will mean that we will not meet our emission parameters,” Ramokgopa said. “We have put measures in place to ensure that there is some degree of mitigation associated with that.”
Ramokgopa attributed the improvements at Eskom to the National Treasury providing R254-billion in fiscal relief to support the energy sector. He said planned maintenance would continue to ensure the units remained reliable and healthy once they returned to service. DM