Electricity minister’s populist spin on 2335MW transmission expansion in Cape provinces

  • Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, says government is targeting to expedite the expansion of transmission lines to the Cape provinces in order to potentially unlock at least 2 335MW of energy in the short-term.
  • The new National Transmission Company of South Africa (NTCSA) has not confirm the plan and is arguably better placed to make such an announcement. 
  • However,  Eskom recently announcing 2680MW and 790MW additional feed in capacity in the Western and Eastern Cape respectively through curtailment. Read more 

Ramokgopa was speaking during an engagement with business stakeholders in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday. Ramokgopa explained that there are renewable energy projects that are already producing electricity but the lack of transmission lines is hampering their ability to add to the ailing grid.

“In the short-term, we can unlock about 2 300MW of stranded electrons. That is the route that we are taking and as the Minister, I’ll be making the necessary announcement. We already know the corridors where we are going to get this 2 335MW. It’s in Upington, the Juno Gromis 400kV line and all that in the Nama transformer in Upington (sic).

Related news: Electricity minister with no power – Ramokgopa

“Once we make those interventions, we get an additional 2 300MW. We don’t have to wait for 10 years. It’s the interventions that we are making now but we need to design a bespoke financing solution to help us to address the issues of transmission,” he said.

In the longer-term, some 14 000km of new transmission lines are to be built in South Africa to connect renewable energy projects and further strengthen the grid.

Turning to demand side management, Ramokgopa said the appetite – from both private persons and business – for rooftop solar has grown exponentially since government announced tax incentives and financial support to those willing to invest.

He said connected rooftop installed capacity has grown from some 983MW in 2022 to 4 412MW by mid-2023.

“Our anticipation is that the rate of growth will exceed what we would have seen in the previous calendar year. Two things are an impediment to an aggressive rollout of roof top solar. Firstly, it’s the availability of equipment.

“South Africa, compared to many countries in the world, has had the biggest import of solar panels. We have had conversations with some of the biggest manufacturers across the globe – invariably from China – to localise production here. We are confident we are going to do that.

“The second impediment is the skills to install these solar panels. We will be recruiting about 25 000 people to be able to install. In every crisis, there is an opportunity and that opportunity must be taken. We are looking to industrialise and… we are looking to create these new skills so that we get people into jobs,” he said.

Transmission crisis

In October last year the Managing director of Eskoms’ new Transmission Company, Mr Segomoco Scheppers, said that the country needed to add more than 1500 km of new transmission lines annually over the next ten years. This is to ensure transmission capacity to accommodate more than 50 GW of new generation power which will mainly come from intermittent renewable energy (wind and solar projects).

Currently, Eskom’s transmission division is adding 300 km of new power lines annually. Scheppers confirmed that in the last ten years, only 4 347 km of new powerlines were added.

Another challenge is transformer capacity. Scheppers confirmed that more than 122 600 MVA transformation capacity would have to be added, representing 77% of Eskom’s current installed base of just over 160 000 MVA. In the last ten years, only 19 060 MVA has been added to the grid infrastructure.

Related: link to Eskom’s latest generation capacity assessment report HERE. The intention of the Generation Connection Capacity Assessment of the 2024 Transmission Network (GCCA – 2024) is to provide stakeholders with an indication of the available capacity for the connection of new generation at the main transmission system (MTS) substations on the Eskom transmission network that may be in service by 2024 based on both.

In a virtual briefing on the countrys’ energy crisis in June last year Ramokgopa confirmed that the National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom) is considering a public–private partnership model for transmission infrastructure to accommodate new generation capacity which includes intermittent renewable energy. The capex on this is pitched at R210-billion which Eskom and the government does not have. He added that there was no intention of relinquishing state ownership of the grid. Read more

At the same briefing Ramokgopa said that Eskom is close to achieving its energy availability factor (EAF) of 70%. In reality, this year Eskom’s EAF has deteriorated to 50.84%, even below the very low figures for the same period last year, and despite three 800 MW coal-fired units at Kusile power station being returned to service in November 2023.

Eskom week-on-week energy availability factor EAF for 2023. Data source: Eskom. Image credit: Chris Yelland. Chris is an energy analyst, consultant, electrical engineer, public speaker, writer and MD at EE Business Intelligence (Pty) Ltd. Follow Chris on X – @chrisyelland

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

Leave A Reply

About Author

Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

Copyright Green Building Africa 2024.