Improving Eskom’s energy availability key to addressing load shedding

  • South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, says the improvement of the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) is indispensable to the resolution of the current electricity crisis facing the country.

The Minister was addressing a question and answer session of the Ministers in the Economic Cluster in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday. Eskom’s low EAF at power stations has dogged the power utility’s ability to generate enough capacity to provide for usage during peak hours in the country, and improving the EAF is one of the key pillars of the Energy Action Plan.

Related news: South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has no department, staff or budget. He also has no authority to procure new generation capacity. 

“Eskom has about 14 coal-fired power stations, one nuclear and a number of peaking plants in the country. Coal power stations contribute about 80% of generation, so the EAF is indispensable to the resolution of the energy crisis.

“The current efficiency level of these plants is sitting at 53% and the Eskom board has approved a strategy that intends to improve the performance of this installed capacity… to 60%. One percentage increase equates to about 450MW… so seven percentage points are equal to 2 800MW,” he said.

The Minister said government, working with Eskom, has already put several plans in place and is working towards increasing the EAF.

“The first one is to ensure that we are able to exploit the dispensation that allows Eskom to be able to invest in the maintenance of the assets, including the repurposing of power plants.

“The second one is to make sure that we redesign the procurement dispensation in the context of the crisis. We are experiencing some delays in returning units to operation once they have been removed. We are failing to return these units on time and that is account of the fact that Eskom has to go through a third party to procure parts. So what we are introducing is that Eskom must go directly to the Original Equipment Manufacturer.

“The third one is around improving the coal quality. There are over 1 000MW that are locked as a result of poor coal quality. We are designing a dispensation that will allow Eskom to truck in good quality coal so that we are able to unlock that 1 000MW,” he said.

Ramokgopa said through these technical interventions to improve the EAF, government is – through the National Energy Crisis Committee – working to address “rampant corruption” at the power utility.

Another intervention includes what the Minister called incentives for workers at power stations.

“The last intervention, amongst many, is to ensure that we increase incentives so that we are able to retain the kind of skills that are required to bolster our efforts to improve the performance of these plants. This includes drawing in private sector expertise to work with management at the plant level,” Ramokgopa said.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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