Eskom has warned that it would only be able to reduce the risk of load shedding by September, meaning a significant portion of electricity-dependent economy will take a while to rebound. Picture Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
Eskom has warned that it would only be able to reduce the risk of load shedding by September, meaning a significant portion of electricity-dependent economy will take a while to rebound. Picture Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Load shedding risk lingers, until September

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Oct 23, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Eskom has warned that it would only be able to reduce the risk of load shedding by September, meaning a significant portion of electricity-dependent economy will take a while to rebound.

This as the power utility said it would begin the process of decommissioning a number of ageing coal-fired power stations.

Chief executive André de Ruyter yesterday said Eskom would remove up to 12000 megawatts (MW) of installed power capacity out of commission over the next 10 years.

De Ruyter said the decommissioning of installed capacity was critical to recovering the stability of its generation system while Eskom was procuring additional power during the period.

He said Eskom had stepped up its reliability maintenance programme to the point where it now had about 14percent of its units undergoing maintenance.

“The reliability maintenance is in full swing, and the tangible benefits of the work will start being felt by April 2021,” De Ruyter said.

“We envision that we will have significantly reduced, but not eliminated, the risk of load shedding by September next year.”

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe submitted to the joint sitting of Parliament on the debate to the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that the Department had gazetted amendments to electricity regulations on new generation capacity to enable municipalities in good financial standing to develop their own power generation projects.

He said recognising Eskom’s role in the electricity sector the government was working to achieve significant systems improvement through the Eskom maintenance programme.

“Work is under way to achieve operational and financial stability at the entity. The process to separate and unbundle Eskom is progressing well in line with the road map.

"These initiatives will complement efforts to secure energy supply for society."

Eskom has not implemented rotational load shedding since last month and managed to meet electricity needs with minimal use of open-cycle gas turbines for three successive weeks.

Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said while the energy availability factor was lower compared with the same period last year, unplanned generation outages had slightly improved with a reduction from 23 to 19percent.

“We also managed to perform 2percent more planned maintenance against the 8percent target, while striking a delicate balance between plant maintenance and keeping the lights on,” Oberholzer said.

De Ruyter also said that the reliability maintenance programme was reflective of the seriousness with which Eskom was tackling the issue of improving its fleet of ageing power stations.

He said Eskom had redoubled its efforts and commenced with the implementation of modifications to repairs to the design defects at Medupi and Kusile power stations over the past eight months.

“However, we can only fix so much,” De Ruyter said.

He said the design lives of the ageing power stations were compromised by lack of maintenance over the years when the mid-life refurbishments were required.

“The average age of our power station fleet is some 39 years, and that means that a number of our power stations are reaching the end of their design lives,” De Ruyter said.

“And in accordance with the IRP2019, we will therefore take out of commission over the next decade between 8000MW and 12000MW of installed capacity, and that is obviously going to create a shortfall in generation capacity going forward.”

In April, Eskom sought proposals on how to repurpose the Komati, Grootvlei and Camden coal-fired power plants once they reach the end of their operational life.

Eskom said the proposals should support low-carbon growth, enterprise development and sustainable job creation.

De Ruyter said Eskom was grateful for the National Energy Regulator of SA’s concurrence with Mantashe’s determination of a procurement process to add 11.8gigawatts to the grid amid the looming shortfall in generation capacity.

“We think that this is urgent. We welcome the fact that the minister has on a number of times announced that he will make available the resources in his department to support and expedite this process,” he said.

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