Electricity Minister, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, says there is a need for Eskom to continuously ensure it improves the reliability of generation units as government works around the clock to end load shedding.
“I think it’s particularly unhelpful when Eskom has to go out from time to time with the announcement of the intensity of load shedding.
“I think there was one day where we shifted the intensity of load shedding about three times in a space of about six hours. I think that undermines the credibility of our efforts, but also the ability of industries and households to be able to plan because they would have expected lower stages of load shedding,” he acknowledged on Sunday.
Ramokgopa made these remarks during a media briefing where he outlined progress made regarding the implementation of the Energy Action Plan (EAP).
The Minister told the media that as extra megawatts are added to the grid, some of these problematic units will be taken out for service to ensure they are more reliable.
“This will give us an opportunity that when we make a promise of a Stage ‘X’ you won’t find that much later we have to make amendments to that announcement, which undermine the statements Eskom releases from time to time.”
Meanwhile, he said the additional area of focus remains the work on the Unplanned Capability Loss Factor (UCLF) on units that keep tripping.
UCLF is defined as the ratio between the unavailable energy of the units that are out on unplanned outages over a period compared to the total net installed capacity of all units over the same period.
“It’s an area that requires our attention,” he said.
He noted that Eskom had planned to keep the UCLF at less than 15 000 megawatts (MW).
“But you can see that as part of our optimistic scenario when we did the winter outlook that we’re not keeping to that.
“We do admit that it’s an area that requires attention because of course, it takes on the available capacity and therefore the correction that you introduced as a result of the elevated UCLF, which increases the intensity of load shedding.”
In addition, he said the team was working around the clock to ensure that units do not trip.
“I did make the point that when the unit trips, it means that they are out there not providing us megawatts, which intensifies load shedding.”
Ramokgopa said additional interventions are needed to ensure the state-owned entity can turn that around.
“The levels of load shedding are not going down to where we want it to be. Even with this elevated the peak demand in my view when I was sharing with the team is that we should not be in way upwards of Stage 3 but it’s something that requires our collective attention.
“I do promise that we’re going to address this with the urgency that the state is required.”
While there have been challenges, Ramokgopa said they have been seeing some improvement since May this year on the generation side, since adding 1 600MW into the grid.
“And of course, on the human side, the expectation has always been that when you enter the latter part of June and into July, we’re going to see the demand that is spiking. And of course, that is our own projections, you can see that the demand in July has been greater than any other period during this winter.”
He added that Gauteng accounts for more demands for electricity like any other province and that weather conditions also play a role.
“If you look at national peak demand, Gauteng on average accounts for just shy of 30%, so Gauteng does matter.”
He announced that Eskom was working closely with the Gauteng provincial government and municipalities to be able to coordinate and orchestrate interventions to meet demand.
In addition, he said the entity also needs to ramp up planned maintenance.
The Minister told journalists that the delay in refurbishing Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant is receiving attention.
The plant is expected to be decommissioned in July 2024, however, its licence has been extended to help relieve rolling power outages.
“And I’m just saying something that is beyond worrying and exceptionally upsetting. That brings other questions, if you can’t manage why should you have the confidence that you can do other more complex things?”
Meanwhile, he said Eskom is working on an expansion of the grid, addressing issues of regulatory approvals, regional interconnectors and financing all efforts that will help end load shedding.
South Africa government news agency