Load shedding will return, warns electricity minister

 ·23 Apr 2024

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa warned that despite recent relief from load-shedding, Eskom’s future setbacks mean that load-shedding is not over.

This comes after South Africa has experienced over 28 days without load-shedding, the longest streak since 2022.

In his most recent media briefing on the implementation of South Africa’s Energy Action Plan, the minister said South Africans should appreciate what Eskom has managed to achieve.

He also said the decrease in demand—primarily due to the surge in household and business solar PV uptake—is due to state incentives, which Eskom’s Energy Action Plan pushed through.

“So far, in 2024, I am sure we [South Africa] are about to break the 5,000 MW mark in solar generation,” he said.

“So it’s all part of Eskom’s orchestrated plan, we should appreciate this,” he added.

However, Ramokgopa noted that it is in the nature of the space Eskom operates in to have setbacks.

“We are still working on the reliability of these machines, and that’s why you can’t confidently say load-shedding is behind us. That would be a false claim, and it can’t be substantiated.

“No Eskom official can put their hand on their heart and say tomorrow morning we will continue to have no load-shedding because there’s a lot of instability – anything can happen tomorrow.”

Energy expert Chris Yelland agreed with this sentiment and added that intermittent load-shedding will continue until the utility’s long-term problems are resolved.

Yelland explained that the improved performance is due to the re-introduction of three units at Kusile power station to the grid.

These units were non-functional at this time last year but were temporarily reconnected to the grid near the end of 2023.

These three units account for around 2,000 MW, and there has been a reduction of about 2,000 MW in unplanned breakdowns.

This indicates that the frequency of breakdowns has decreased, but the performance of the power plants beyond Kusile’s units remains the same as last year, which was a pretty lousy year.

However, Yelland said that Eskom temporarily reconnected Kusile’s units through a bypass of the flue-gas desulphurisation plant, which is responsible for limiting the release of sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

This explains why Kusile’s performance has improved. However, the bypass is only a temporary solution, and Eskom will have to take Kusile’s units offline again to implement a long-term solution, or else Eskom will be breaking the law.

Yelland added, therefore, that intermittent load-shedding may still occur until these problems are adequately resolved.

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