Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has identified electricity transmission infrastructure as the weakest link that could constrain the country’s energy supply as Eskom continues to makes strides in improving grid capacity.
Eskom’s transmission infrastructure is concentrated in the inland provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Ramokgopa said transmission infrastructure was the next frontier in the government’s energy action plan to restore supply of electricity and end load shedding.
“The area that remains vulnerable is transmission. It undermines our ability to bring on board additional capacity. Bringing renewable energy is a challenge,” Ramokgopa said.
“Any risk to a grid collapse is not on generation failure, but on transmission failure. With generation stabilising, work must continue to strengthen and expand our national transmission infrastructure.”
Ramokgopa said in spite of fears of electricity constraints this winter, Eskom’s electricity capacity had improved to 29,092MW in the five-day average in the last week of June, an improvement of 1,300MW.
He said demand had dipped below the winter base case scenario because of the improvements in Eskom generation capacity and demand-side management measures.
The minister said the gap between electricity demand and generation capacity was closing, and soon the country would be free of the load shedding challenge.
“We have breached the psychological mark of below 14,000MW unplanned breakdowns,” Ramokgopa said.
However, he said an area that was still requiring attention was partial load losses that had remained elevated at 7,224MW by the end of June.
“Partial load losses continue to be a challenge and are receiving dedicated attention per fault type. Boiler tube leaks are the main driver of partial load losses,” he said.
“Outage slips continue to improve, supporting improved generation. This is an indication of improved outage management.”
Meanwhile, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Friday that South Africa would pursue a transition from a high to low carbon emissions path that did not leave the vulnerable and most affected behind.
Transitioning South Africa’s coal-powered stations is expected to come at a cost of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coal mining sector and the communities where these power stations are based.
Mantashe said, as a sovereign state, South Africa’s approach could not be about 'one against the other', but one that was premised on the balance between fulfilling the country’s socio-economic needs, while preserving the environment.
“Hence, we advocate for a just transition from high to low carbon emissions, instead of a transition from coal to renewables,” Mantashe said.
“The justness in the transition must be seen to be done. It must be people-centred and take into consideration the socio-economic conditions of communities that are directly affected by the transition, such as the communities in the Mpumalanga coal-belt.
“We must therefore never allow ourselves to be encircled by the developed nations who fund lobbyists to pit our country’s developmental needs against their own self-serving protection of the environment. Our country deserves an opportunity to transition at pace and scale determined by its citizens.”
South Africa remained resolute on transitioning at a manageable pace as the government had ramped up the pace in procuring energy from renewable energy sources in line with the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2019), he said.
Currently, South Africa’s power system had some 6,000MW of energy generation capacity from renewable sources, with more to come.
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