Solar panels in Frankfort have been switched off after the High Court dismissed a case against Eskom with costs. Rural Free State (RFS), an independent power producer, will now have to throttle its electricity generation and is forced to dump half of the electricity it could supply to the town. RFS and its parent company Rural Maintenance filed court papers against Eskom after the state-owned power utility wanted to block the private power producer from implementing its own load-shedding system. The court dismissed Rural Maintenance’s urgent application to preserve the status quo because it could not prove Mafube municipality had authorised it to proceed with litigation.
Rural Free State (RFS) is an independent power producer that has photovoltaic solar power stations that can supply 3.7MW of electricity. RFS generates about 3.7kVA every day. Frankfort, the town that RFS is supplying electricity to, needs about 10kVA daily to run without Eskom. RFS divides the town into five zones that have different times during the day when they are off. During that time, Eskom will declare a stage. If RFS is generating more energy than Eskom needs for that zone, it does not load-shed that zone. Gugu Mokoena, the RFS general manager, explained that following the High Court ruling, they are now dumping about half of the 3.7kVA they generate daily. Rural Free State had trained staff and invested R100 million in infrastructure.
According to Eskom, not only is RFS not generating enough electricity to meet the town’s full demand, but it also does not have to switch off parts of its solar farms. The PV plant does not need to disconnect as implied by Rural Free State. Eskom said that Rural Maintenance can use its solar plant to reduce the impact of load-shedding. Like all other towns in the country, they need to reduce a percentage of their Eskom-supplied electricity during load-shedding. Their self-generated electricity can be used at full capacity.
Eskom vs Rural Free State
This case began because Eskom wanted to stop Rural Free State from load-shedding. Eskom said that RFS’ system was not aligned with national standards that ensure the stability of South Africa’s grid. Eskom argued that Rural Maintenance was required to abide by regulation NRS048–09 of the Nersa-approved National Code of Practice for Emergency Demand Reduction and System Restoration Practices. The integrity of the grid remains a priority, and Rural Maintenance was not reducing its use of Eskom-supplied electricity when a system emergency was declared. The court dismissed Rural Maintenance’s urgent application to preserve the status quo because it could not prove Mafube municipality had authorised it to proceed with litigation.
Eskom wants to ensure that Rural Free State meets the Eskom standard, and the company adheres to the regulation and procedures that ensuring the stability of South Africa’s grid. Rural Free State has invested millions of rands and trained staff to ensure that they could provide electricity to the community. It is a difficult situation for Frankfort’s residents, who will have to suffer through load-shedding until Rural Free State meets the Eskom standard.