Thando Nondlwana

By Thando Nondywana

News Reporter

Energy action plan not bearing any fruit – analyst

This while Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says Eskom's progress against load shedding is promising, but challenges persist.

Eectricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has warned that while Eskom has turned the corner and is making significant strides to resolve load shedding, the country is not out of the dark tunnel just yet.

“We are keeping focus on the bouncing ball, the resolution of load shedding. I must emphasise that in the nature of this space, you are likely to have setbacks. We are still working on the reliability of these machines and that’s why you can’t speak with great confidence that load shedding is behind us.

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“We are making the kind of progress that in many instances far exceeds where we thought we would be, but we are not yet where we want to be,” he said.

There had been improvements over the past three weeks due to the execution of the generation operational recovery plan and the energy action plan, said Ramokgopa.

“We know that we have made significant [progress], we have moved from where our unplanned capacity load loss – the rate at which the units are failing and performing effectively – we have been able to reduce that and been able to recover about 3 000 megawatts and moved from historic highs of that baseline of 18 000MW and now averaging about 15/14 000MW average.”

Truth of the matter

Independent economic and energy analyst Tshepo Kgadima questioned the improvements, saying it was untrue the energy action plan was bearing fruit.

“How is there improvement when the energy availability factor [EAF] persistently remains below 55%,” he questioned.

“We can only talk about improvement to the system or that the action plan is yielding results if the EAF is at 75%, which we are still far away from.”

He outlined how Eskom’s improved performance was not the only reason for the decrease in load shedding, emphasising this was due to low demand.

According to Kgadima, about 8 000MW had migrated off the grid.

“The electricity demand continues to decline which is linked to myriad factors, including that consumers are migrating off the grid, so going forward, chances are likely there won’t be any load shedding because people are resorting to alternatives.

“This also means the economy will not grow above one percent.”

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He added that electricity demand migration was bound to increase due to exorbitant electricity tariffs which had skyrocketed to R4.54 per kilowatt hour.

“Electricity demand has plummeted to 25 000MW and will marginally increase during peak periods in the winter,” he said.

“A long-lasting and viable solution for Eskom to achieve energy security for the country is to significantly improve base-load energy efficiency to 33% and achieve base-load EAF of 75%, with primary energy generation costs below R0.50 per kilowatt hour.

“Eskom’s [National Transmission Company of South Africa, a subsidiary of the utility] must be prevented, as stipulated in Section 217 of the constitution, from purchasing any electricity supplied to it for transmission to distributors at any price above R0.50 per kilowatt hour.”

Not yet out of the woods

Energy and infrastructure finance specialist Ruse Moleshe said the country was not yet out of the woods, saying the progress made did not signify the end of load shedding.

She said the electricity system reliability had not been tested and it was still premature to talk about improvements.

“The cold winter months will lead to an increased demand for electricity. Anything can unexpectedly go wrong with any of the generators – their reliability can only be confirmed over a long period of operation,” Moleshe said.

“Further, electrical systems globally do not just rely on the electricity supply being able to meet demand. They tend to have a buffer/reserve margin, and standby capacity, to meet unforeseen power system challenges. South Africa is not yet there,” she told The Citizen.

The country needed to build more capacity and have a reserve margin of up to 15% to allow for emergencies and allow Eskom to undertake maintenance without the risk of further load shedding