In the early hours of Saturday morning, Koeberg Unit 2 tripped, forcing Eskom, the struggling South African power utility, to introduce a new bout of stage 6 load-shedding. Eskom plans to return the unit to full operation before Monday, but it seems this is unlikely to end the constant power outages that have plagued South Africa for years.
Koeberg Unit 2’s failure, attributed to feedwater pump issues by Eskom, removed 970 MW from the grid. This led to the utility enforcing Stage 6 level load-shedding for several hours until Eskom could rework its planned load-shedding.
Eskom’s latest statement indicated that the unit has been taken critical and is increasing reactor power to enable turbine commissioning. The state-owned company expects the unit to safely synchronize to the grid before the morning peak on Monday once required activities are completed.
The return of Unit 2 should bring 920 MW of generating capacity online, equivalent to one stage of load-shedding, but will it be enough? Energy experts warn that power demand is expected to pick up significantly throughout this week, and if there aren’t more reliable and operational units to meet demand, South Africa is in for another uphill battle.
While Koeberg Unit 2’s return could offer temporary relief, other units have to come back online, too. Unit 1 at the Koeberg plant is already undergoing a long-term outage for its 20-year life extension project, and the expected route to service is delayed.
South Africa’s winter peak periods typically record high electricity demand compared to summer. Thus, unless Eskom introduces other units into their grid, it’s unlikely South Africa will see less load-shedding.
The recent move highlights South Africa’s limited energy generating capacity, pushing some to install solar PV systems on their roofs, which appear to be one of the few alternatives for the people to get a consistent supply.