Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Ramokgopa says court ruling on load shedding could be ‘expensive and unsustainable’

Government is seeking legal advice after a high court ruling on exempting public institutions from load shedding.

Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says government is assessing its options following an unfavourable outcome in the load shedding court case.

Last Friday, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria rejected the government’s application for leave to appeal a prior ruling.

The same court had determined in December 2023 that load shedding amounted to a breach of constitutional rights.

As a result of the ruling, Eskom was ordered to exempt several public institutions, such as public health facilities and schools, from the power outages or furnish them with generators for uninterrupted power supply.

Electricity minister on load shedding case

Addressing the media during a briefing on Monday, Ramokgopa indicated that government, which has an option of petitioning to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), was receiving legal advice within the Presidency on the high court judgment.

“What is not in doubt is the fact that there is a need for us to ensure that the identified critical public spaces or institutions required an uninterrupted power supply for them to be able to provide the kind of services that are envisaged in the Constitution.

“We also don’t deny that load shedding significantly [hinders] on the ability of those institutions to deliver on their constitutional mandate. That’s not in question,” he said.

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The minister hinted that offering alternative power sources to the institution could prove costly and unfeasible in the long term.

“What we are trying to say is, the manner in which we are expected to execute could be expensive and unsustainable. We are requesting from the court some degree of clarity on what the judgment meant. It is something we are leaving to the [lawyers], they will advise,” Ramokgopa continued.

He emphasised that resolving load shedding promptly would render the legal issue moot.

“There will be no need for us to have a conversation around alternative supply of electricity at these institutions,” he said.

Energy action plan

On the energy action plan, Ramokgopa said South Africa not experiencing any planned power cuts for 54 consecutive days was a result of planned maintenance.

“As I have made the point previously, we reached the height of planned maintenance.

“[From] December 2023 transitioning into January 2024, we took out about 18% of generation capacity – about 9 000 megawatts – and we see these are coming back.

“They are healthier and remain on load for a considerable period of time,” Ramokgopa explained.

WATCH: Eskom minister Ramokgopa says there’s ‘no magic’ in not having load shedding

The minister highlighted that it was “a considerable improvement” that the energy availability factor (EAF) increased by nine percentage points to 60.5% between the start of Eskom’s financial year on 1 April to 16 May this year.

Over the same period last year the EAF was around 51%.

He also pointed out that the unplanned capability loss factor (UCLF) – generating units not functioning optimally – have reduced to 28.2%, compared with 35.6% last year.

“The kind of performance that we are seeing is orchestrated and deliberate.”

Watch the briefing below:

The minister added: “We’re at 11 110 megawatts significantly better than the same period last year, where we were at 16 000 megawatts.

“So we have been able to claw back about five stages of load shedding. This is a significant performance and not something instantaneous or sudden as many want to have us believe.”

Eskom diesel spend

Ramokgopa further dispelled suggestions that Eskom was using too much diesel on open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) to meet demand and keep the lights on.

“The OCGTs are part of Eskom’s fleet. They are designed exactly for that purpose.”

According to the minister, Eskom has spent R1.24 billion on diesel from 1 April to 16 May.

The power utility burnt R5.2 billion worth of diesel in 2023.

“Essentially, we have seen a drop of 78%.”

The minister added Eskom would slow down planned maintenance as the country goes into the winter season in order to meet the increasing demand for electricity.

“There will be a winter peak, but we won’t do maintenance so units can come online. When there are lower peaks, we will do maintenance.”

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