Stage 6 is a ‘short-term pain for long-term gain’ - Minister Ramokgopa

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa visited the Ankerlig Open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT) facility located in the Western Cape. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/ Independent Newspapers.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa visited the Ankerlig Open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT) facility located in the Western Cape. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/ Independent Newspapers.

Published Feb 11, 2024


Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the latest bout of stage 6 load shedding was "necessary short-term pain for long-term gain" as Eskom sacrificed voltage delivered to keep up with scheduled maintenance.

Ramakgopa said on Sunday that the trendline of load shedding was on a decline in comparison with the same months of early last year, and the current year, insisting that stage six was an "outlier", an exception that had been gambled upon in favour of maintenance for healthier generation units as winter creeps in.

He attributed the necessity for stage 6 to the eruption of nine boiler tube leaks in various units, as well as overcast and rainy weather from Thursday to Sunday, which denied the grid the projected contribution of solar photovoltaic generation.

"We have taken a calculated risk, we have heightened levels of fiscal support for the maintenance so that we return units back to service in better condition.

When The President says there is light at the end of the tunnel, it is because we are outperforming Eskom's summer plan" he said.

He said that stage 6 had been avoided in December and January and had last been implemented for six days in November until the latest bout.

Eskom's said the latest load shedding had been triggered by the failure of two 800 MW-apiece units at Medupi and high levels of boiler tube leaks across nine power stations, which collectively reduced supply by 4 400 MW.

One of the Medupi units had a chain fail which was used to remove ash from the boiler, while another unit at the same plant also tripped  resulting in unplanned outages spiking to above 17 600 MW and the declaration of Stage 6.

Planned outages stood at above 6 700 MW at the time of the declaration, while partial load losses were above 6 200 MW.

Ramokgopa said said Eskom had now resolved to work directly with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of the boiler leak equipment, as they were people who knew the DNA of the units and were quick on diagnostics and prognosis of the boiler systems.

"It is important we do things the right way to regain the megawatts that we lost when we did not do proper maintenance. The failure of a cluster of units that we are experiencing now is the price to pay for ensuring that we do things the right way, we need to be meticulous to fix the grid," he said.

Group Executive for Generation Bheki Nxumalo underplayed the extent of investigations into the nine boiler tube leak incidents, saying there were routine enquiries by Eskom's security cluster.

Ramokgopa said using May as a baseline, the grid was on 17 369 megawatts on unplanned availability factor and was currently at 17 365, which was a better reading though there was an additional 3 120 mw of outages that had to be accounted for, bringing the total unavailable factor units to 20 400.

Ramokgopa, optimistic that most units including Medupi and the still under construction Kusile would begin to come on stream from June to the end of the year, insisted that no corners would be cut in dealing with load shedding and eventually liquidating it.

"That is why we say the end of load shedding is within reach, you don't have to believe the President, you do not have to believe me, if you look at the trendline you will see that it is coming down. In some cases there are challenges of distribution where there are no transformers available for long periods which is outside load shedding,’ Ramokgopa said.