Rolling blackouts will be a thing of the past if plans to optimise performance at power stations and add generating capacity to the national grid are implemented successfully.
These plans form part of the approach spelt out by recently appointed Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to end load-shedding, a phrase that has become so entrenched in South Africans’ vocabulary that it was the Pan South African Language Board’s word of the year for 2022.
The minister is currently on a two-week fact-finding trip to all 14 power stations. First on his agenda were Mpumalanga power stations Kriel and Duvha (on Monday), and Kusile and Kendal (yesterday).
At Kusile, he said that power cuts ‘must end’. “We are in this together; the problems with load-shedding will be resolved,” Ramokgopa assured those in attendance.
Kusile, located about 15km north of Kendal near Emalahleni, has six 800MW coal-fired generating units that should – when optimally run – add 4 800MW generation capacity to the grid.
“I am confident that we are going to resolve the electricity problem. We will be honest and transparent about where we are now, in as far as resolving the problem.
“We have committed men and women with skills [to assist] at Eskom. From the discussions we are having with Eskom, it is clear that the problem of load-shedding will be resolved,” Ramokgopa explained.
“The problems and challenges that we have here are technical problems; they have nothing to do with so-called corruption,” he added.
On Monday, during his visit to Duvha, Ramokgopa said he feels ‘Eskom employees are the heart of resolving the ongoing energy crisis’. “My view has always been the biggest asset for any organisation is its workers and the reason we’re starting from the bottom up is to appreciate and understand the efforts being made at station level.”
Ramokgopa said that once the assessment of the power stations is finalised, the Energy Action Plan will be updated. This plan was first announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa mid-last year.
The minister believes the plan’s first pillar – improving the stability and generation capacity of the national grid – is essential. He said the 6 000MW deficit in the energy ecosystem will be addressed by maximising the efficiency of the 81 Eskom units across the country.
The president said the minister’s primary goal is to ‘drive government’s programme of significantly reducing the severity and frequency of load-shedding as a matter of urgency’.
Update to Koeberg
The maintenance of Koeberg, the only nuclear power station in Africa, has reached a ‘major milestone’, according to the power utility.
In a statement issued yesterday, Eskom revealed that Unit One’s ‘first steam generator has been removed from the containment building and placed in the storage building erected to house the steam generators’.
“It is a great relief to have reached this milestone as the steam generator replacement project has experienced numerous false starts in previous outages and some unexpected challenges during the execution of the current outage to get to this point in the project,” the statement reads.
The task was no easy feat. “The logistics of moving the steam generators from their installed position (vertical), out of containment (horizontal at an elevation of 20m), to placing them on a flatbed transporter (horizontal) can only be appreciated if one understands the size and weight of each steam generator. Each of them is 22m tall (that’s a six-storey building), with a diameter of 4.5m (top half) and 3.5m (bottom half) and they each weigh over 320 tons (a Boeing 747 only weighs between 150–220 tons, depending on its configuration).”
The next steps include taking out the two steam generators that are ready for lifting and installing the three new steam generators.
After these major stages are completed, maintenance activities scheduled for the outage, commissioning all the systems, refuelling the reactor, and returning the unit to service will follow.
Due to the delays that have already been experienced, the original return to service date (June 2023) is no longer achievable, says Eskom.
“The generation production plan is being optimised to minimise as far as possible the impact of the projected delay on the system. Unit two, which continues to operate safely while unit one is in this extended outage, will undergo a similar long outage to replace its three steam generators, starting in the later part of this year.”
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