Nothing New in Ramokgopa’s Load Shedding Plan

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has presented a multi-point plan to ease load shedding to the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC). However, the only change is the assumption that Eskom will somehow find R30 billion for diesel this year. There’s nothing new in Ramokgopa’s plan that suggests the energy crisis will soon be a thing of the past. Ramokgopa went on a month-long tour of Eskom power stations and held meetings with its executives, but it seems like nothing has changed.

Here are the highlights and the lowlights of Ramokgopa’s plan:

Burning through its budget

  • The R30 billion for diesel procurement seems to be a figure plucked out of thin air.
  • To fund the R30 billion, Eskom will use funds from the 18.65% tariff increase approved by Nersa and those allocated to it in February’s budget.
  • Eskom cannot burn more diesel than roughly R2.5 billion due to the constraints in transporting it to its open-cycle gas turbine (OCGT) plants.
  • If Eskom had the luxury of burning this much diesel last year, we would not have experienced near-constant load shedding between October 2022 and March 2023 or bouts of Stage 6 “until further notice”.
  • Ramokgopa says nothing about those billions in outstanding rebates from Sars.

Improving the performance of the worst five power stations

  • Ramokgopa proposes Eskom should focus on its five worst-performing power stations, Tutuka, Kendal, Duvha, Majuba, and Matla.
  • The focus on these five plants has been a recurring theme for over a year now.
  • The first three of these have long been the ‘most broken’ of the utility’s power stations, accounting for roughly half of the megawatts lost due to unplanned breakdowns across Eskom’s fleet in 2021.
  • In January, Eskom informed us that within six months, 1 862MW would be “recovered” from Tutuka, Kendal, Duvha, and Matla – the deadline is July.

Additional capacity

  • Ramokgopa stated that government had secured a second-hand generator in the Netherlands that is 15 years old, likely to replace Medupi Unit 4.
  • According to the minister, there remains a plan to procure an additional 1 000MW from Mozambique.
  • Ramokgopa reiterated the plan to add an additional “minimum” 12 000MW in the next 18 months.
  • There’s some double-counting in this number, with the “recoveries” at Kusile and Medupi and the commissioning of the final unit at the former (Unit 6) totalling 4 400MW, over a third.
  • This is not new capacity. It is Eskom capacity that has failed due to human error.
  • In the months or years ahead, there remains a possibility of additional units being out of commission for long periods due to “human error”.
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Reduce demand by switching off geysers remotely

  • Ramokgopa’s plan to reduce demand by switching off geysers remotely is some serious pipe dream stuff.
  • This technology exists and is in place – to varying extents – in certain municipalities, but deploying this broadly on a nationwide scale may take many years.
  • It seems like the government’s pace in implementing its National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom) plan suggests that most geysers in the country may be on remote switches by 2030.

Load shedding exemptions

  • The plan to exempt certain facilities from load shedding is completely unworkable.
  • For this to work, distributors (Eskom directly or municipalities) would have to install special lines from feeder substations to only these key points. The timeline on getting just one of these in place? 36 months.

In short, Ramokgopa’s plan is focused on the next six months, beginning in May. In theory, the measures should see an additional 4 500MW available, which will help cushion the impact of far higher demand in winter months. However, it’s too little too late. We have already entered winter. Nothing in Ramokgopa’s plan suggests the energy crisis will soon be solved. It’s the same old story – what we need is real solutions, practical interventions, and accountability.

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