Ramokgopa: Load-shedding will continue into summer

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Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s bid to get more power. (Leon Sadiki/Getty Images)

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said load-shedding will continue because Eskom will not compromise on planned maintenance even as the demand for electricity is reduced as the country moves into summer. 

At a media briefing on Sunday the electricity minister gave an update on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan, which was launched in July 2022 as a roadmap to end load-shedding as quickly as possible and promote the long-term sustainability of electricity supply in South Africa.

He said planned outages will give the team at the power utility an opportunity to do “good maintenance” and improve the health of the generating units. 

“We have units that are unreliable, that keep tripping and that is why we need to accelerate planned outages. We will take out the units, fix them and ensure that they come back healthy, rejuvenated and are able to run for longer hours approximating their design capacity,” Ramokgopa said.  

The electricity minister said planned outages will be a priority even if it means that the country is at stage one load-shedding during the day. “We will live with that in the short term so that we are confident about the performance of these units.”

Historically, load-shedding has been higher in winter as consumers demand more electricity to keep warm and the demand tails off in summer leading to less demand on already compromised plants. 

“As part of the winter outlook we did indicate that we would slow down on planned outages but once we get out of a very difficult winter we would ramp up planned outages to make sure we protect these machines to ensure their sustainability and reliability going into the future so we are beginning to ramp up,” Ramokgopa said. 

“You will see that the number [of planned outages] will gradually go up as demand slows down. This is an opportunity for us to take out the units and continue to fix them. We still remain above the 15 000MW in relation to the capacity loss factor. We want to bring it down to below 15 000MW and that is where our Achilles heel is.”

The planned capability loss factor of an Eskom plant is the ratio between the unavailable energy of the units that are out on planned maintenance over a period compared to the total net installed capacity of all units over the same period.

Expect more load-shedding than 2022

As a response to a question from the media Ramokgopa said the number of days of load-shedding experience this year will not be fewer than 2022. “It will be exceptionally higher but I am confident we will get out of this very difficult situation.”

The electricity minister said in terms of projection he does not think the utility will do better than the record number of days of load-shedding experienced last year, but “we remain confident about our ability to resolve the load-shedding question. The energy availability factor will continue to come up and we will get out of this situation.”

There were 205 days of load-shedding in 2022 and in 2023 there have already been 238 days of blackouts, according to the Outlier.

Asked about Eskom’s performance since he became elected electricity minister in March, Ramokgopa said Eskom moved from a low of 40% energy availability factor to a 60% energy availability factor. Planned outages are coming down and that had been achieved over a period of four months. 

Energy availability factor is the percentage of maximum energy generation that a plant is capable of supplying to the electrical grid, limited only by planned and unplanned outages.

“We are very bullish about the prospects going into the future. We have had exceptional performance and this is from the time I have been invited to work with the team,” he said.  

Eskom suspended load-shedding until 4pm on Saturday. It then implemented stage three until 5am on Sunday, followed by stage one daytime load-shedding on Sunday. 

The power utility said the temporary suspension of load-shedding was the result of lower weekend demand.

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