Electricity Minister says South Africa has ‘turned the corner’ on blackouts

  • South Africa is beginning to turn the corner in resolving the energy crisis says the country’s Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
  • He was briefing the media on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan in Pretoria on Monday.

Improved performance of Eskom’s generating fleet meant the suspension of load shedding over the past weekend and much lower stages of the planned power outages during the week.

“We have turned the corner, although we are not out of the woods yet. We are beginning to show sustained improved performance over an extended period of time and this is good news in that it’s an affirmation and validation of the work that the team is doing at Eskom,” he said.

The Minister said the intensification of maintenance plans at Eskom are beginning to have a positive impact despite a difficult period in September when load shedding was intensified as a result of maintenance outages. These maintenance outages are aimed at reducing the incidence of generating units tripping on their own and improving performance.

Related news: Electricity minister with no power – Ramokgopa 

“These plans that have been put into motion are beginning to bear fruit. I did indicate some time ago when we were experiencing heightened levels of load shedding Stage 6, that essentially what we are dealing with is short term pain which is going to result in long term gain and we are beginning to see the kinds of gains that I was referring to.

“Our actions are deliberate. We are going to invest a lot of our efforts to ensure that we are able to maintain the units,” he said.

Ramokgopa insisted that both Eskom and the department will not show any signs of complacency going forward.

“It’s important that we shouldn’t be complacent and we have never been complacent…even when are beginning to see … green shoots. I think what that does is just bolster and raise the morale of the team to ensure that we even achieved greater results and we are able to save the South African economy.

“We introduced these interventions when we came into office, after the President appointed and sat with the team and thought the best way of getting out of this situation is to ensure that we make these investments into these units. What are the results – when the units come back, they remain on load for the longest period of hours.

“Essentially we have undermined the rate and frequency of failure of these units. We have improved on their efficiency. They are beginning to produce more… closer to their design capacity. This is not by accident. It’s not some intervention that comes from a place that is unknown. It is simple engineering and we really want to commend the team,” he said.

In the Q&A session Ramokgopa said that it would be folly to rely on the country’s coal power fleet in the long term. “The reason we are going this route now is because it the shortest way to ending loadshedding. It’s the height of folly to suggest that, going into the future, this is going to resolve our (energy crisis) problems and that’s why we must accelerate the onboarding of new generation,” the Minister said.

Related news: Are things getting worse at Eskom? 

Reality is that Eskom’s energy availability factor is in decline year on year and the current reduction in loadshedding may be short-lived.

Eskom energy availability factor (EAF) from Week 1, 2021, to Week 41, 2023. Credit: Chris Yelland – EE Business Intelligence. Data source: Eskom

According to Chris Yelland, a respected energy analyst in South Africa and founder of EE Business Intelligence, Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) has improve over the last three weeks but remains in decline year on year. The EAF for Week 41 is 58.83% EAF for 2023 calendar year to Week 41, 2023 is 54.71%. EAF for same period last year, i.e. 2023 calendar year to Week 41, 2022 was 59.18%.

Eskom’s X account reports the following generation status:

Traditionally, as the scheduled maintenance cycles in the hot summer months come on in South Africa, Eskom’s EAF declines, leading to higher stages of loadshedding (blackouts).

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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