With the mandate to obliterate the recurring issue of load shedding, Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity, exudes confidence about the government’s commitment to resolving the matter.
A Steady Stride Towards a Load Shedding-Free Nation
Speaking about the progress in implementing the Energy Action Plan during a press briefing in Pretoria, Ramokgopa reassured South Africans about the government’s unwavering focus on ending load shedding. Backed by a team of skilled engineers at Eskom and the leadership of the Board, the government’s efforts are paving the way for a brighter future.
“I want to give you confidence that we are going to resolve this, it’s an engineering problem. I eat, breathe and sleep [finding] solutions to load shedding and I’m confident that with the team that is helping us, we will be able to resolve load shedding,” he confidently proclaimed last Sunday.
Furthermore, Ramokgopa emphasized the government’s aim to build a buffer, liberating the South African economy to tap into its full potential.
A Positive Shift in Energy Consumption Habits
Initially, the government had forecasted that the nation would hit the peak demand of 34,000 Megawatts in the winter season. Yet, the reality hasn’t matched this estimation. Ramokgopa attributes this outcome to a noticeable shift in the attitude of South Africans and industries towards lessening their electricity consumption.
Drawing on the recent data from the five-day average ending on 30 June 2023, he highlighted that the current available capacity is plateauing at approximately 29,913 Megawatts. This shows a remarkable improvement from the previous 28,664 Megawatts recorded since 26 June 2023.
“We are making significant improvements of about 1,300 Megawatts of improvement [and] what is encouraging for me is that we are beginning to maintain that,” he noted.
Ramokgopa explained that the country is now capable of matching the energy demand, which has led to substantial periods without load shedding. Yet, he stressed the need for energy generation to surpass demand significantly.
Securing the Future: Building an Energy Buffer
“In that way, we would be able to pull a number of units through planned maintenance and we would be able to build a buffer so that, as the South African economy continues to grow and recover, we would have sufficient generation capacity,” Ramokgopa explained. He also highlighted the increased planned maintenance amidst winter, which he sees as an indicator of a system in recovery.
Addressing the Issue of Partial Load Losses
The issue of partial load losses is receiving special attention. Ramokgopa stated that the government is utilizing external expertise alongside General Managers at various stations to understand the root causes of the failures.
“We are able to diagnose and determine the root causes of the failures from one unit to the other – what are the common failures that are responsible for the failing of that unit and/or responsible for the partial load losses? Then we know the biggest culprits on the units going out are boiler tubes, quality of the coal, us keeping to the emission parameters,” he explained.
“We are very meticulous [and] deliberate. There’s a degree of granularity on how we are beginning to understand the performance of these units and the kinds of skills and interventions that are required to help us to address this situation,” he added.
A Call for Attention: The Issue of Transmission
Lastly, the Minister highlighted that the matter of transmission remains a critical concern. It poses a significant risk to the addition of new renewable energy generation capacity, which provides promising returns.
He stated that despite the development plan for transmission underway at Eskom, financing remains a significant hurdle. An innovative plan is required to navigate this issue, according to Ramokgopa. He called for focused efforts to ensure the consistent and efficient flow of energy from renewable sources, particularly wind energy from coastal areas, into the grid.