Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Load shedding: SA unlikely to experience complete blackout, says Ramokgopa

Eskom is expected to securing 400 megawatts in generation capacity at the end of May.

It is highly unlikely that South Africa will experience a blackout, according to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, as the country continues to battle with load shedding.

Ramokgopa held a media briefing on Friday to give an update on the implementation of government’s energy action plan.

The minister said Eskom’s generation fleet had experienced unplanned outages on Friday, which undermined the power utility’s ability to maintain the rolling blackouts at lower stages.

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He said there would be higher levels of load shedding if the open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) were not being operated at a much higher rate.

“Load shedding is an instrument that is used to protect the grid and ensure that we remain within the acceptable band of frequency so that demand doesn’t far exceed supply,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Ramokgopa said it was not likely to happen that the country’s grid collapses.

“Why is that the case? It’s because the system operator maintains 2 200 megawatts [MW] of reserve margin essentially meant to protect the grid.”

Energy plan programmes

The minister indicated that Eskom had opened applications for the distribution demand management programme.

This programme will provide a financial incentive for demand reduction by commercial and residential customers.

“We did make the point last week that demand side interventions are going to be a focal point as we enter into December because the initiatives at household level are cheaper and faster. So for every megawatt that has been saved, there’s an incentive an incentive of R3 million. The programme is aimed to achieve demand reduction during specified periods.”

He revealed that the Land Bank has established a R2.5 billion fund for farmers to invest in alternative energy solutions to support energy security.

“This will provide a mix of grant and loan funding, with the grant component ranging from 30% to 70%.”

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In addition, National Treasury was in the process of finalising adjustments to the loan guarantee scheme to establish an Energy Bounce Back Scheme, which will be launched shortly.

According to the minister, the scheme will provide first-loss funding for solar-related loans as well as for leasing of solar equipment to small businesses.

Eskom, he said, was also close to putting the final touches to securing 400MW in generation capacity through the standard offer program with the winter season around the corner.

“This will be online before the end of May.”

Watch the briefing below:

Ramokgopa revealed that Eskom has also developed an interim solution to return Medupi Power Station’s Unit 4 generator to service earlier than originally anticipated by April 2024.

A second hand stator from a decommissioned plant in the Netherlands will be used for the unit, which was damaged due to an explosion in August 2021.

The explosion caused severe damage to the generator, estimated to cost around R2.5 billion.

Negligence was said to be behind the explosion, resulting in eight Eskom employees being suspended.

Load shedding stage

Meanwhile, Eskom has announced that load shedding will be reduced to stage 3 on Saturday due to lower demand over the weekend.

The power utility said the return to service of some generating units also led to the slight reduction in load shedding stages.

“Breakdowns are currently at 18 713MW of generating capacity, while the generating capacity out of service for planned maintenance is 3 222MW,” Eskom said in a statement on Friday.

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“During the Last 24 hours, a generating unit each at Hendrina, Kit and Lethabo power stations have returned to senate. In the same period, a generating unit and each at Kendal, Kriel, Medupi and Tutuka power stations were taken out of service due to breakdowns.

“In addition, the delay in returning units to service at Arnot, Kendal and Matla power stations continue to add to the current capacity constraints.”

However, Stage 6 will be implemented at 4pm on Sunday until further notice.

Responding to questions in parliament’s National Council of Provinces (NCOP) this week, Ramokgopa said the gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to shrink by 5% due to load shedding and would result in more than 850,000 job losses.

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