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Eskom’s intentions might scupper power supply in the country this year

While Eskom seems to have put its house in order over the past month with no load shedding, there is uncertainty about its staying power over the next year. Photo: Bloomberg

While Eskom seems to have put its house in order over the past month with no load shedding, there is uncertainty about its staying power over the next year. Photo: Bloomberg

Published Jan 11, 2022

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WHILE Eskom seems to have put its house in order over the past month with no load shedding, there is uncertainty about its staying power over the next year.

Eskom over the festive season brought on stream unit 4 of the Kusile power plant, which at full operational capacity is expected to add 800 megawatts (MW), but which is not expected at least for the next six months as the unit is commissioned gradually.

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Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about the scheduled maintenance of the Koeberg nuclear plant’s generators which will have to be shut down over the 10-months maintenance period, taking about 900MW off the grid with each generator shutdown.

“We can be more positive about 2023. The current year is different… There is too much going on which might affect the supply of electricity,” energy specialist Chris Yelland said.

Chief among the uncertainties was the lost unit at Medupi power plant, which blew up in August, and which was expected to be out of commission for two years.

The commissioning of Kusile which was not expected to have an immediate impact; Koeberg’s maintenance; and the escalating sabotage of Eskom’s infrastructure – which culminated in the toppling of an important pylon at Lethabo power plant and evidence emerging that the supports had been cut deliberately – were other worries on the horizon for Eskom.

Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter confirmed in late November that there were clear acts of sabotage on infrastructure, including the pilfering of quality coal and tampering with truck loads in transit to power stations.

Yelland said the upside of the electricity supply issues included the move last year to allow the private sector to generate up to 100MW of embedded power by the mines and industries.

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The awarding of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) window 5 bid late last year was also positive, though it was also likely to take over a year for power generated there to come on stream.

“It is going to be a hard year this year. Hopefully 2023 will be easier,” Yelland said.

Nuclear physicist Dr Kelvin Kemm said the Koeberg reactors, which were in service for over 40 years, needed to have its steam generators replaced, which he said was a complicated process.

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Each of the two reactors would take about five months to be fully serviced, hence the projected 10 months scheduled.

“One reactor at a time will be switched off and with that we will lose about 1 000MW of reliable electricity. The reactors are key to South Africa’s energy supply. It could be faster if all goes well, but they will have to take the opportunity to update other things as well,” he said.

Eskom announced in December it would open some of its land in Mpumalanga initially for IPPs to utilise for production that would then be wheeled to the grid.

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Eskom would provide connection up to the nearest network connection point.

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