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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

‘Optimistic’ Ramokgopa expects electricity demand to decrease, defends Eskom’s R9.2bn diesel bill

Eskom's energy availability factor has breached 60% as South Africa nears the end of winter.

Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says South Africans will have to deal with load shedding a little longer, but remains optimistic about solving the power crisis.

On Sunday, Ramokgopa gave an update on the progress made regarding government’s energy action plan and also provided a weekly generation outlook.

‘Demand is going to tamper down’

Ramokgopa indicated during the media briefing the media that Eskom has recorded a significant improvement with its energy generation increasing to 29 000 megawatts (MW) in the past week.

“During winter, demand did surge and of course, the instrument that the system operator has to balance the grid was to ensure we intensify the stages of load shedding,” Ramokgopa said.

“Remember when we went into the winter period, the deliberate act to take out the units for service was going to be reduced so that we have many units as possible producing the megawatts.”

ALSO READ: SA should brace for higher stages of load shedding going into 2024

The minister said he expected electricity demand to start decreasing as the country nears the end of winter, thus, reducing the intensity of load shedding.

“The expectation now is that we’re entering a less severe period of cold and demand is going to tamper down.”

Ramokgopa also said although the system was “starting to stabilise” with the energy availability factor (EAF) breaching 60% on the grid, he warned that ramping up load shedding in some instances remained necessary to ensure long-term sustainability of Eskom’s power stations.

He said ending the rolling blackouts would be an expedient move without first ensuring guaranteed reliability of the power plants.

Watch the briefing below:

Routine maintenance

Ramokgopa said the constant “tripping” of units has improved as a result of Eskom’s unplanned capacity loss factor decreasing, but pointed out that partial load losses continued to be an “albatross”.

The minister further placed emphasis on the importance of routine maintenance of the power stations and its generating units.

READ MORE: Government buildings biggest load shedding culprit, says Ramokgopa

“What we’re going to do and not compromise on is the philosophy of maintenance plan so you’re able to guarantee the performance of these units going into the future.”

According to Eskom’s head of generation Bheki Nxumalo, older power plants had been fitted with the latest emission control technology to reduce emissions.

“We’ve been given money to do maintenance on [all the stations] as part of our life-cycle management of power stations,” Nxumalo said.

Diesel, electricity bill

Ramokgopa also defended Eskom’s R12 billion diesel and electricity bill since the beginning of April.

The minister highlighted that South Africa’s economy hinges on fuel supply, and that he would previously indicated that the burning of diesel would come at great cost to the fiscus.

“We are not surprised by these numbers. It was always part of our deliberate strategy to protect the SA economy,” he continued.

Eskom spent at least R9.2 billion on buying diesel to power its fleet of open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs), while R3.2 billion went towards on buying electricity generated by independent producers.

He added that the diesel spend was within budget.

Eskom CEO

When asked about the appointment of new Eskom CEO, Ramokgopa said the hiring process fell outside of his domain and respected the functions of Eskom’s board led by chairperson Mpho Makwana.

“I will not venture into a domain that’s not mine,” he said, adding that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan would appoint a CEO “at the right time”.

Meanwhile, Ramokgopa said although load shedding effects may cause “short-term pain”, they would eventually yield “long-term gain”.

Hopeful at the prospective success of the electricity ministry’s energy action plan, Ramokgopa said there’s light at the of the tunnel.

“I’m very optimistic about the future. We set the bar very high. We’re going to improve this energy availability factor. We are going to get to a stage where the lights will be on”, he said.

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