End of load shedding not in sight

 ·27 Feb 2024

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan says that unless new capacity is added to the national grid, South Africans should expect load shedding to continue.

This is despite various strategies power utility Eskom and the various departments have implemented to mitigate the outages and promises from president Cyril Ramaphosa and other politicians that the end of load shedding is in sight.

Responding to a written parliamentary Q&A, Gordhan said that to end load shedding, Eskom needs to add more megawatts to the entire system – something which is constrained by infrastructure, like grid access and transmission lines.

Eskom has implemented several other strategies to mitigate the outages, the minister noted, such as a Standard Offer Program to purchase excess power from private generators and from neighbouring countries.

This programme is fully subscribed for the 1000MW, he said, and consideration is being given to extending the capacity and duration of the programme to take advantage of “additional opportunities”.

“Furthermore, an Eskom Emergency Generation Programme has been implemented to procure emergency power when the grid is under significant strain. To date, 60 MW has been signed on to the programme and is available to the grid,” he said.

A further 150 MW was expected to be online from the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer programme by December 2023.

Gordhan noted that between 2018-2023, approximately 2,411 MW of new capacity was brought online via the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP).

“But unless new megawatts are added to the entire system, minimal load shedding will continue in the short term,” he said.

This has already been evident in load shedding, which has been persisting in 2024 so far, even pushing as high as stage 6. Currently, load shedding is rotating between stage 2 and stage 3 until further notice.

The DMRE’s draft 2023 Integrated Resource Plan also indicates that load shedding is likely to stick around until 2027, at the very least.

Transmission problem

Adding new generation capacity has run into a significant hurdle, however, with electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa noting this week that “new generation capacity…is now throttled by the fact that we’ve got challenges on the transmission side.”

“Once we resolve those issues, we are on the right course…to deliver on the Energy Action Plan,” he said.

The minister said that the government is working to finalise a financial structure to facilitate private investment into the country’s transmission infrastructure, which is hoped will accelerate South Africa’s plans to roll out 14,000km of transmission lines over the next 10 years.

Key to this is the National Transmission Company South Africa (NTCSA) currently being established as an independent entity under Eskom Holdings as part of the group’s unbundling.

Gordhan noted that it is expected that NTCSA will be operationalised in April 2024.

However, this places South Africa’s energy action plan on an extended timeline, with years of work needed to be done to shake load shedding off for good.

Ramokgopa tried to downplay the latest spate of load shedding, stressing that interventions at Eskom power stations have been able to slash load shedding by some 600 hours during the December and January 2023/24 period as compared to the previous year.

Read: Eskom heading in the right direction – but expect some setbacks: Ramokgopa

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