Eskom says it is ahead of schedule with a planned project at the Kusile power station, which should help to ease the effects of load shedding in the last quarter of the year.
In October 2022, the Kusile West stack failed, causing three generating units (units 1,2 and 3) to be decommissioned.
Eskom’s short-term solution has been to erect three temporary stacks that will not include Flue Gas Delsuphurisation (FGD) plants.
Speaking at a media engagement on Thursday, Thabiso Moirapula, a senior manager in Eskom’s generation unit, said progress on putting up these stacks is ahead of schedule.
This means that the three units at Kusile could become operational ahead of their planned dates.
One unit was planned to be back online at the end of November 2023, with the remaining two units back up in December.
The group said it now sees the potential for at least two units to be back up by mid-November, with the final one following in December.
While the utility has not fully committed to these dates, it is still the plan to add 2,880 MW from the Kusile units back to the grid before the end of the year.
Eskom also noted that 900 MW should also become available from South Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg, in November following the refurbishment of the plant, potentially saving South Africa from another stage of load shedding.
However, this will likely be countered by the removal of Koeberg unit 2 from the grid around the same time.
The group also warned that summer maintenance will also be ramped up, so this needs to be considered in the overall load profile.
Despite this, acting chief executive Calib Cassim said that if performance keeps improving, the demand side can be managed, and units come back online as planned, the country will be entering 2024 on stronger footing,
Units are performing better
The power utility also noted other positive moves, specifically that Eskom is managing to keep breakdowns below 16,000 MW, with significant improvements at “problem” power stations.
However, the group admitted that it has fallen short of Energy Availability Factor (EAF) targets. In March 2023, the group set an EAF target of 60% but only managed around 56%.
The EAF target for March 2024 is now 65%, but management said that it is confident that it will hit the 60% to 65% range by then. They did, however, stress that this is a stretch goal.
To get permission to build the three temporary stacks, Eskom was granted a postponement to meet the Minimum Emission Standards (MES) at Kusile from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
By bypassing the FGD, Eskom, which has already been named the world’s largest emitter of Sulphur Dixoide (SO2), will increase its SO2 emissions eightfold, with 80,000 tons coming from Kusile alone.
“The pollutant is responsible for the brunt of the public health impacts caused by the company’s emissions,” Lauri Myllivirta, lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), said.
Nevertheless, electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said that Eskom will try its best to minimise the effects of the emissions.
“Eskom will do anything that is possible to ensure that we [mitigate the] impact of SO2 that gets emitted into the environment,” the minister said.
“Although we have these exemptions, Eskom is meeting all the emissions parameters, barring the ones of SO2 content… and that’s why we have asked for an exemption, which is provided for in the legislative dispensation in the country.”