Renewables to thank for weeks of no load-shedding

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 23 Apr 2024
Minister in the Presidency for electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
Minister in the Presidency for electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

Eskom’s performance over the past three weeks – which has seen no load-shedding being implemented – is a result of concerted and deliberate plans by the power utility and government to deal with power outages.

This is according to minister in the Presidency for electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who yesterday briefed the media on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan.

Over the years, state-owned power utility Eskom, which supplies the majority of South Africa’s electricity needs, has struggled to keep the lights on.

Poor maintenance at power plants and corruption at the utility have been cited as the main reasons for the power outages.

Ramokgopa highlighted that the Energy Action Plan is beginning to bear fruit, which is exemplified in the contribution of renewable energy projects.

Announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2022, the Energy Action Plan is SA’s strategy to end load-shedding and achieve energy security.

“The kind of progress we are seeing today is largely as a result of the exceptional work that has been done by the team at Eskom. We are turning the corner and making significant strides to ensure that finally we get to see the back of load-shedding. Of course, we are not yet out of the woods.

“There’s been significant recovery as a result of the execution of the Generation Operational Recovery Plan…[and] as a result of, first, at the national level, the Energy Action Plan,” he said.

‘Deliberate effort’

Ramokgopa added there have been “phenomenal improvements in relation to the unplanned capacity loss factor” during the past week.

He pointed out that the country is seeing the “exceptional performance” of renewables.

With embattled Eskom struggling to maintain a steady power supply, SA has gradually been introducing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, to plug the energy shortfall.

The country also aims to move away from fossil fuels by introducing clean energy sources, in line with global trends.

“As a result of the reforms the state has introduced...the contribution of renewables is on the back of state incentives.

“It’s part of that orchestrated plan. If you go to the Energy Action Plan, outcome number four stated explicitly that part of this Energy Action Plan is to ensure we accelerate the rollout of rooftop solar solutions for households and industries.

“When we are out of this load-shedding situation, we will still encourage people to rollout rooftop solar solutions because we want to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and we want to ensure households, small and large industries contribute to this green transition we have committed to,” he said.

“We are beginning to see the kind of improvement that we are desiring. The period of March, the unplanned capacity loss factor – the rate at which we are losing these units, the rate at which these units are not efficient – is coming down.

“The baseline of May [2023], we were sitting at about 18 000MW; we are bringing it down. The average of the week from 8 to 12 April [2024], we were sitting at about 13 900MW. The week after, again at 14 000MW. Today, we are still at about 13 000MW. We want to maintain that…even bring it sub-13 000MW, but it’s a function of a steady, orchestrated and deliberate effort on the part of Eskom,” he said.

Eye on the ball

The minister emphasised that although the improvements are commendable, focus is firmly on the work that still needs to be done.

“We are keeping focus on the bouncing ball, the resolution of load-shedding. I must emphasise that in the nature of this space, you are likely to have setbacks. We are still working on the reliability of these machines and that’s why you can’t speak with great confidence that load-shedding is behind us.

“We are making the kind of progress that, in many instances, far exceeds where we thought we will be, but we are not yet where we want to be.”

The minister said the prospects in the immediate future look bright, with several generating units coming back online over the next coming months.

“We are on track to recover unit four of Medupi [Power Station] and that will be coming on stream in September this year. We are on track to ensure we return – as part of the extension of the life of our only nuclear power station – Koeberg Unit 2…we are confident we will return it in September 2024. We are confident of synchronising Kusile [Power Station] Unit 6 in October of this year.

“In the next six months, we are going to get an additional 2 580MW just on the Eskom fleet. We will continue to ensure we sustain these efforts of improved performance,” Ramokgopa said.