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Dark days ahead for South Africa

Eskom has stated that while the recent determination to procure another 11,800MW of energy capacity from independent power producers (IPPs) will be helpful, load-shedding will continue until at least the end of 2021.

This means that for the foreseeable future, and despite a government decision to open up further procurement from IPPs, rolling blackouts will continue to be a reality in South Africa, leaving the country in the dark on a regular basis.

To try and improve the situation, the Department of Energy gazetted a new determination for the Energy Regulation Act on 25 September which allows Eskom to source over 11,800MW from IPPs.

The department said that new generation capacity is needed in the country to contribute to its growing power demands, and the new determination allows Eskom to tap renewable, gas, and coal producers for this.

In response to questions from MyBroadband, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said that while the power utility is grateful for the additional potential capacity, load-shedding will be a reality until it has fixed its Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations.

“Eskom welcomes the procurement of additional generation capacity as announced by the government recently,” he said.

“It is only through the addition of new electricity generation capacity that South Africa can be assured of a more reliable supply of electricity to power a growing economy.”

“As Eskom has often stated, load-shedding will continue to occur until the major repair work to correct the design defects at the Medupi and Kusile power stations has been completed,” he said.

This repair work is being conducted in tandem with the long-term maintenance of Eskom’s ageing plant, which Mantshantsha said would help improve the reliability and availability of the infrastructure.

“It is envisaged that the occurrence of load-shedding will be significantly reduced once all of these projects are completed, late in 2021 and into 2022,” he said.

He added that Eskom would lend its full cooperation to the government to ensure a speedy resolution of the energy constraints afflicting the country.

We are making good progress – Eskom

In a recent interview with the Daily Maverick, Mantshantsha said that while Eskom’s power generation system was unstable and invokes the constant threat of load-shedding, the power utility has been making good progress in improving its situation.

He said these include repairs of all defects at the Ingula power plant, the repairs of three defects at Medupi, and the increase in payment levels by municipalities.

Mantshantsha added that the lack of reliable generation activity continues to be a major issue for Eskom, and he also acknowledged that historically, Eskom has suffered from major issues with fuel procurement.

Eskom recently took active steps to address its reliability and management problems, however, which Mantshantsha highlighted as a move in the right direction.

“For the first time ever, three weeks ago, Eskom suspended two power station managers to investigate the poor performance of their power stations,” said Mantshantsha.

“This is an attempt to address the point of reliability, but it is just the starting point.”

New generation capacity needed

Energy expert Chris Yelland recently stressed the need for the procurement of capacity from IPPs, stating that this is the only way to stop load-shedding.

“Unless South Africa launches courageous and bold decision policy initiatives, load-shedding is here to stay.”

He said these policy initiatives must be aimed at replacing the old and poor performing coal-fired power stations with new generation capacity.

The determination for the procurement of 11,800MW from IPPs is a step in the right direction, but Yelland noted that this capacity will take a while to come on stream.

“This new capacity will most probably only come on stream in three to four years’ time because of the long procurement process,” he said.

He highlighted that the new capacity will still need to go out tender as part of a bidding process, followed by financial closure and construction.

Therefore, although it will address electricity shortages in the long term, this latest development will not solve load-shedding in the coming years.

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