How to assist Eskom to deal with the most pressing issues
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JACO DE LA ROUVIERE
POWER generation is essentially a very subtle balancing act between the energy generated and the energy being consumed, and the success of the quality of the act is the measurement of the network frequency (50Hz in South Africa).
This indicative measurement is like the odometer on your car measuring the speed at which you travel which will be influenced if the car travels uphill (demand increase) or if your press down on the accelerator (increase in energy generation).
If the vehicle is small, one can experience rapid changes and could struggle to maintain an accurate speed, but a massive heavy truck will be more stable and maintaining speed accurately is less cumbersome.
This typical municipal load profile presents the cumulative demand from the people in the municipal distribution network, which load is taken from the Eskom grid and paid for in terms of a time-of-use tariff like “MEGA-FLEX” or the like. Eskom has been steadily increasing the tariffs over the past years and because of the high cost of generation in peak, the gap between off-peak power and on-peak power grew significantly.
Most of the urban households in the country pay a single tariff which removes the motive to not use energy in peak and will most definitely nullify the motive to charge dynamic tariffs to motivate such behaviour. This is significant as the shape of the demand curve and both the morning and evening peaks are driven to a large extent by domestic power use, the “breakfast” and “dinner” peaks. This is amplified by an increase in rooftop solar, which leads to the “duck curve”, increasing demand for peak load generation while reducing base load demand, putting more pressure on Eskom.
In the municipal domain it makes sense to attempt to introduce equipment to reduce the use of energy at peak times. InovaSure built mathematical models to simulate the introduction of battery storage facilities in collaboration with the municipalities to reduce the uptake of energy during peak tariffs, which purpose was to reduce the cost of energy acquisition and pass the savings on to the homeowners.
These models have been shared with Eskom over the past five years and have drawn positive attention as a mechanism to assist the utility to produce energy against a much more stable and predictable demand than to deal with the massive fluctuations being exacerbated by the growing renewable energy supply.
The frequency (“speedometer”) is indicative of the mismatch of the balance between generation and demand and is the indicator of possible transmission loss. InovaSure’s plan will cause stability very quickly and has several inherent advantages, apart from the obvious reduction in cost to the end user.
The proposed InovaSure battery storage facilities installed at various municipalities can be a source of energy or a load on the system in milliseconds. If there are a large enough number of these so-called “energy vault” installations completed in conjunction with participating municipalities in South Africa, the system could be used to recover from transmission loss and restart Eskom.
Dealing with the single biggest risk to the economy in South Africa, intelligently, can be to the great benefit of the industry, homeowners, Eskom, municipalities and the general operational stability of the generation equipment.
A key aspect of the future value of the technology embraced by InovaSure is how it is integrated with grid control, and how Eskom is “handed the throttle” to this system to keep everything at 50Hz rather than uncontrolled attempts at grid control on a micro scale, which can be disruptive rather than supportive of the objective - a key feature of the InovaSure solution which is, in effect, presenting a no-carbon cost-effective peak generation facility.
InovaSure did not stop with the design of the energy vault alone, but thought it prudent to bring other benefits to the homeowners by bundling other technologies into the energy offering, to reduce the cost of living significantly through the introduction of the InovaSure “smart distribution device” (electricity meter) as well as a unique so-called “eThin” technology base to cater for Video on Demand, IPTV, Voice over IP, and cutting-edge cloud and Fog Computing solutions, underpinned by the delivery of content through its partner company, InovaMedia.
These additional services have been proved to reduce the cost of living significantly and are very popular since they redefine the current poor relationship between many homeowners and the municipalities, especially in the informal areas.
Introducing the smart distribution devices in a municipality makes for a very positive customer base which almost completely eradicates the purpose of illegal connections and has a 100% collection ability since the services are all pre-paid.
The income stream of the municipality is now guaranteed and subsequent payments to Eskom are underwritten by an insurance product, resulting in a low counter-party risk with high credit rating of a second Power Purchase Agreement between Eskom and the municipality.
These PPA agreements are now monetisable 25-year assets on the balance sheet of Eskom, which can be utilised to reduce the current debt and guarantor exposure of the National Treasury to third parties.
Jaco de la Rouviere, chairperson of Inovasure (Pty) Ltd.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
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