Eskom Strides Towards Power Grid Optimisation Amid Surging Electricity Demand

EAF Improvement Ushers Load Shedding Respite

Despite the burgeoning electricity demand, South Africa’s power behemoth, Eskom, is managing to restrain load shedding severity due to the rise in the Energy Availability Factor (EAF), declared Electricity Minister, Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, in a virtual press conference on Sunday. The EAF indicator is marching towards the aspirational 70% mark.

Dr. Ramokgopa stated, “The EAF has been consistent on an average of 60% for the past 14 days. We are getting much closer to the target of 70% EAF that we had promised, and the benefit will be to the South African economy, households and the ability to ensure that we achieve the levels of growth that are necessary to improve the performance of the economy.”

Load Shedding: The Current Scenario

Eskom is executing load shedding in selected areas due to escalated demand or vital maintenance at specific power stations. Eric Shunmugam of Eskom projected, “At this stage, we are looking at stages zero during the day and Stage 3 in the afternoon but there is a potential of us going into Stage 1 and Stage 4.”

Eskom’s Upturns and Achievements

Shunmugam unveiled the five-day average of energy availability over the past week, marking a significant leap from the previous week. “We have added about 400MW and that is significant, as it illustrates a consistent improvement… The more the units perform, the more opportunity to execute planned maintenance. Planned maintenance has gone up from the previous week’s 3,302MW to 3,451MW,” Shunmugam highlighted.

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Moreover, the unplanned capability lost factor – the rate at which units are failing – has diminished by approximately 700MW on average. The country is now at a five-day average of 15,157MW against the preceding 15,870MW.

Ramokgopa observed, “For the first time, we are beginning to go below 15,000MW. We have registered multiple instances where we have gone below the 15,000MW of unplanned capability lost factor, which is an illustration of the degree to which improvements are made, and we are able to keep that consistent over a period of time.”

Challenges and Exemptions

However, the Minister did highlight areas of concern, including outage slips — the failure to return units to service within the promised timeframe.

In a momentous turn, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s National Air Quality Officer sanctioned Eskom a deferment concerning the Minimum Emission Standards (MES) related to sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission levels at the Kusile power station.

The Minister appraised the impact, saying, “That is significant in that it will allow us to return three units at Kusile. We are talking about 2,400MW, and that is two and a half stages of load shedding. Eskom will do anything that is possible to ensure that we [mitigate the] impact of sulphur dioxide that gets emitted into the environment.”

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Despite these exemptions, the Minister emphasized Eskom’s commitment to meeting all emission parameters, except those relating to sulphur dioxide content. For these parameters, an exemption has been sought under the country’s legislative framework.

Next Steps: The Winter Campaign

With a determined resolve to minimize the impact, the Minister announced the launch of the winter campaign. “We have appointed a service provider with the necessary skills to work with us so that we amp the message in relation to demand interventions. Our target is to reduce demand by about 1,000MW in the next six months and we remain on track to do that,” the Minister said.

This series of developments reflects Eskom’s ongoing commitment to addressing South Africa’s power challenges, even as the demand for electricity continues to surge. It’s a complex dance between supply and demand, with the end goal of a stable, reliable power grid for the nation. As confirmed by SAnews.gov.za, Eskom’s steps towards improvements and the way it navigates challenges are certainly ones to watch.

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