Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has remained cautiously optimistic about the green shoots in resolving the energy crisis, but partial load losses still remained very high.
Ramokgopa yesterday said the country was beginning to turn the corner in dealing with the crippling power cuts after suspending load shedding the entire weekend due to improved performance of Eskom’s generating fleet.
Eskom is also planning to implement only Stage 1 load shedding during the week between 4pm and 5am as breakdowns were at 13 559MW, and 4 765MW capacity was on planned maintenance on Sunday, while evening peak demand was forecast at 25 054MW.
“We have turned the corner, although we are not out of the woods yet,” Ramokgopa said.
“We are beginning to show sustained improved performance over an extended period of time, and this is good news in that it’s an affirmation and validation of the work that the team is doing at Eskom.”
Ramokgopa said there had been a gradual and sustained improvement in relation to available capacity as the State has been able to tap into the private sector’s generation capacity, and those megawatts were now finding their way into the system.
He said the trendline of average available capacity has ticked up since May, with the addition of 800MW from 27 410MW to 28 268MW in the first week of October, which was followed by another additional 700MW in the week between 9-13 October.
“From the 16th to the 20th of October, that number has gone up. We are sitting at the average of 29 418MW, and in fact, on Thursday and Friday, we were beginning to breach 30 000MW. That is exceptional. It’s a psychological barrier,” he said.
“So, consistently now, we are about 60-61% of available capacity. In May, 17 369MW of generation capacity were out of the system, and that is why you were seeing intensified levels of load shedding.
“But the week of 2-6 October, we brought that number to 14 113MW. So, if you compare it with the 17 369MW, it essentially means there is an additional 3000MW that is placed on the grid.
“And then you go to the week of 9-13 October, that number was reduced even further. It went to 13 373MW. What does that mean compared to May? 4000 additional megawatts have been made available, an improvement of about 800MW from the previous week.”
Eskom’s senior manager in the group executive generation office, Eric Shunmagum, confirmed that the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) had ramped up to 60%, which is the desirable average by the end of this financial year.
“I can confirm last week we actually averaged 60%, the average EAF week-on-week. And if you really look at the last three weeks, we sort of trended from 57% to 58%, 59% and 60%,” Shunmagum said.
“So, I think it has a direct correlation to the Ministers feedback in terms of, as soon as we start reaching 13 000MW, we start to see higher EAF.”
However, Ramokgopa warned that partial load losses - when generation units run at below optimal levels - were still the biggest risk to the system, especially with planned maintenance in the summer.
“But, of course, there are dents. There are areas that require attention, and the biggest area that requires attention is on our partial load losses. You can see that compared to May, we have not made any significant improvement,” Ramokgopa said.
“And that is why our team is looking for internal and outside expertise to come and help us, especially with those power stations that are notorious during summer periods to lose a lot of megawatts as a result of ambient temperature.
“I am confident that over a period of time, we will bring this down. As we bring the partial load losses down, it means we are able to deposit additional megawatts of available generating capacity.”