South Africa – Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has emphasised that although Eskom’s recent performance is commendable, more work needs to be done to ensure that this continues consistently .
He was speaking during a media briefing updating the nation on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan (EAP) .
The country has not been experiencing any load shedding for about a week due to consistent improvement in the available generating capacity .
“During this period, we have seen an exceptionally good performance by the units .
Outside the issues of reduced demand, we have seen that the unplanned capacity loss factor – a combination of the units being unreliable and the units not performing at the right levels – the system has been healthy .
“The problem that we have is that the system is healthy in periods .
What we want to achieve is to ensure that we maintain that consistently, that the system remains healthy .
We have prioritised these power stations and we are seeing the results, and I’m confident that this festive we will have the lights on,” Ramokgopa said .
The Minister said that over the next two weeks, Eskom remains optimistic that the good performance of units will be sustained .
However, he warned that “the true test” for the performance of the system is yet to come .
“You are not seeing load shedding [because] we are working behind the scenes .
We are aggressive on maintenance and the system is performing .
The outlook, in the short term… looks upbeat and we want to ensure that the lights remain on .
“But the true test comes on the other side of the break when big industries come back .
It’s about sustaining the South African economy .
So we can’t celebrate the fact that we don’t have load shedding when the South African economy has gone on a temporary break .
You want to have a situation of no load shedding at the height of the performance of the South African economy,” he said .
Ramokgopa revealed that during this period, the power utility will be undergoing “aggressive maintenance” of power stations .
“We use this opportunity to do the actual work of ensuring that we are very aggressive in our maintenance programme so that we are able to take full advantage of the fact that demand has slowed down .
“We are going to benefit exceptionally when, as a country, we continue on this path of planned maintenance .
But planned maintenance has got its own downsides .
When we do planned maintenance, it simply means that I’m removing the units off the grid so I’m lessening my ability to generate the megawatts .
“That’s why we have used a combination of low demand and the healthy performance of units during this period to do not only planned maintenance, but opportunity maintenance,” he said .
Addressing generating units
Speaking to the Energy Action Plan’s first key intervention to fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply, Ramokgopa said achieving this rests on two variables: addressing the rate of failure of generating units and ensuring that the efficiency of the units is improved .
The EAP was introduced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2022 to address load shedding and achieve energy security for the country .
“On the unplanned capacity loss factor .
the intention is to bring this down .
[and] bolster the performance of these units and therefore get more megawatts on the grid to service the demand .
“Over the past 14 days… the average is about 12 245MW .
So it means that over that period, there is 12 245MW of units that have either failed or they are not giving us the amount of megawatts that we want .
“But it’s important that we juxtapose this with what has been the trend .
When you look at our winter outlook when we did the projections…the worst case scenario was that if it hits 18 000MW, we are going to hit levels of load shedding that we have not seen before going beyond Stage 6 .
The system is better off, it’s healthier,” he said .
The Minister highlighted that on Monday, capacity losses stood at under 11 000MW but warned that this needs to be sustained over a longer period .
“This is a psychological barrier .
We have gone below 11 000MW so we are confident about our ability to get to that level .
The point is to ensure that we are able to sustain .
The message I’m conveying to the country is that the system is healthier if you use the measure of the rate of failure and the partial load losses,” he said .