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Opinionista

It’s time to deliver on the roadmap for Eskom and the Integrated Resource Plan

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Andy Calitz is a past senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell and Eskom and has been involved in shaping the global energy industry from London, The Hague, Lima, Moscow, Beijing, Sakhalin, Tokyo, Perth, Johannesburg and Vancouver. He has been a player in and observer of the global energy transition and helped launch the biggest ever foreign direct investments in Russia, Australia and Canada. Today he runs FutureEnergy.Global.

South Africa has now had significant electricity load shedding for three consecutive years, and record load shedding in 2020. Unless the government can execute a number of key interventions, little is set to change.

Twenty months ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “Eskom is in crisis and the risks it poses to South Africa are great. It could severely damage our economic and social development ambitions. We need to take bold decisions and decisive action. The consequences may be painful, but they will be even more devastating if we delay. In responding to this crisis, we are informed by the need to minimise any adverse economic cost to the consumer and taxpayer.”

South Africa has now had significant electricity load shedding for three consecutive years and record load shedding in 2020. This has contributed to the sovereign downgrade of the country and a further loss in industrial and investment confidence in our country. This begs the question: What will it take for South Africa to first have a year without load shedding, followed by a decade of adequate uninterrupted electricity supply?

Our hospitals, mines, schools, restaurants, universities, municipalities, homeowners, factories and farms deserve better answers than “load shedding will continue until 2021” and “we continue to ask South Africans to reduce their electricity demand” as if invoking a patriotic duty.

The Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 signals five important and complex shifts for the national electricity system:

  • From building new coal-fired power generation to building mostly renewables wind and solar power generation;
  • From mostly Eskom-owned generation to privately owned new-built generation;
  • From a few large 3,000MW power generation facilities in northern provinces to many one to 10 to 100 to 1,000MW power plants distributed all over the country;
  • From a vertically integrated Eskom to an unbundled Eskom with separate generation and transmission and distribution entities; and
  • From coal-fired power generation capable of high load factors to variable solar and wind generation requiring electricity storage or gas-fired power to deal with intermittency.

Executing these five shifts will require an extraordinary national effort to co-ordinate their execution by many role players and through complex approval and regulatory processes. Eskom will become very much the receiver of arrangements made by Mineral Resources and Energy and Finance/Treasury.

Blackouts and future load shedding can stem from four causes: Shortage of generation capacity, variable generation from renewable power, failure of the national transmission system, or instability of the national power system. For South Africa to have first a year, then a decade, without load shedding will require the country to achieve all of the following 12 key deliverables [with the accountable parties in brackets]:

  1. Achieving an energy availability factor of 75% (against current <65%) by 2025 for the existing Eskom coal-fired plant; 10% improvement comes to 3,000MW [Eskom Generation]; and
  2. Completing Medupi and Kusile to deliver their promised capacity of 9,600MW by 2022 [Eskom Generation]; and
  3. Eskom – by 2021 – avoiding Kendal units being shut down due to impact on air quality in Mpumalanga [Eskom Generation]; and
  4. Separating Eskom Transmission – by 2022 – to create the investment conditions (offtake guarantee or market access; Eskom Transmission capitalisation) to support the renewable capacity investment decisions with/without a sovereign guarantee [South African Government, Treasury, Eskom Board]; and
  5. Procuring – for delivery by June 2022 – 2,000MW of emergency power at affordable prices as called for under the Emergency Power Procurement Programme [run by Mineral Resources and Energy; sold by IPPs to Eskom Transmission]; and
  6. Procuring – starting in 2021 – 2,000MW of battery storage with a storage capacity of 2,000+MWh [for/by Eskom Transmission]; and
  7. Enabling 4,000MW of self-generation by customers of Eskom and Municipalities by deregulating self-generation and wheeling [DMRE, NERSA, Eskom Transmission]; and
  8. Procuring – with first new power online in 2022 – 20,000MW of new utility-scale wind and solar capacity [built and sold by IPPs to Eskom Transmission; organised by IPP Office of Mineral Resources and Energy]; and
  9. Procuring – in 2024 and 2027 – 3,000MW of gas-fired power [sold by IPPs to Eskom Transmission]; and
  10. Successfully refurbishing – by 2024 – the Koeberg nuclear power plant [Eskom Generation]; and
  11. Successfully starting – in 2020 – the refurbishment and expansion of the national transmission system, in anticipation of the integration of the 20,000MW of renewable power generation to be added [Eskom Transmission]; and
  12. Importing – by 2030 – 2,500MW of hydropower from Inga-3 [completed by a Chinese-German consortium for the DRC; transmission capacity built through the DRC-Angola-Namibia-Botswana by national utilities to transmit the power to South Africa].

Each of these deliverables is a major and complex project by international standards. Non-delivery on any single one of the above will result in continued load shedding and/or regional blackouts. Does the South African government [Mineral Resources and Energy, Public Enterprises, Finance/Treasury, Eskom] have the institutional capacity to deliver on these requirements?

I suggest there be clarity in the South African Cabinet about which minister is actually accountable for restoring confidence in electricity supply in SA. Who warns the president when it is seriously off track?

It appears to me deliverables 1, 5 and 12 are already at risk of not being delivered at all, let alone on time. The time has come to deliver on the roadmap for Eskom and the Integrated Resource Plan. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Darryl van Blerk says:

    Hear, hear.

  • Mike Barker says:

    The IRP fails to recognise the value of DER and RoofTopPV, and the resulting aggregation of MicroGrids which even the CSIR sees as the backbone of the future national grid. South Africans have a constitutional right to self-generate for self-consumption ( and this in turns supports the national grid – we must be #GoodGridCitizens )

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Does the South African government [Mineral Resources and Energy, Public Enterprises, Finance/Treasury, Eskom] have the institutional capacity to deliver on these requirements? Cleary, NO!

  • sl0m0 za says:

    Looks like a case of too many cooks (and too many recipes)

  • Michael Settas says:

    The decentralisation of power generation into micro grids has been massively enabled by the rapid technological advances in small scale photovoltaic and battery storage systems. All that is required now is for regulations to permit for such domestic generation to be sold back into the grid. If 500,000 homes in SA each installed 5kW PV generation, that would generate sufficient power to push 2.5GW into the grid. Once the world is back to normal, most PV generation occurs during the day when power requirements at home are minimal, hence leaving most of what is generated available to push into the grid. If each such system also held 10kWh of battery storage, that could run the 2.5GW without sunshine for 2 hours. There exists a clear opportunity for government to allow for the selling of domestic generation back into the grid from excess generation – this would rapidly scale a very significant amount of generation that wouldn’t cost the government a cent.

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