Reality bites South Africa’s Electricity Minister on blackouts and Koeberg

  • South Africa’s Electricity Minister in the Presidency , Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, says there is a need for Eskom to continuously ensure it improves the reliability of generation units as government works around the clock to end load shedding. 

“I think it’s particularly unhelpful when Eskom has to go out from time to time with the announcement of the intensity of load shedding.

“I think there was one day where we shifted the intensity of load shedding about three times in a space of about six hours. I think that undermines the credibility of our efforts, but also the ability of industries and households to be able to plan because they would have expected lower stages of load shedding,” he acknowledged on Sunday.

The Minister told the media that as extra megawatts are added to the grid, some of these problematic units will be taken out for service to ensure they are more reliable.

“This will give us an opportunity that when we make a promise of a Stage ‘X’ you won’t find that much later we have to make amendments to that announcement, which undermine the statements Eskom releases from time to time.”

Tripping units

Meanwhile, he said the additional area of focus remains the work on the Unplanned Capability Loss Factor (UCLF) on units that keep tripping. UCLF is defined as the ratio between the unavailable energy of the units that are out on unplanned outages over a period compared to the total net installed capacity of all units over the same period.

“It’s an area that requires our attention,” he said.

He noted that Eskom had planned to keep the UCLF at less than 15 000 megawatts (MW). “But you can see that as part of our optimistic scenario when we did the winter outlook that we’re not keeping to that. We do admit that it’s an area that requires attention because of course, it takes on the available capacity and therefore the correction that you introduced as a result of the elevated UCLF, which increases the intensity of load shedding.”

In addition, he said the team was working around the clock to ensure that units do not trip.

“I did make the point that when the unit trips, it means that they are out there not providing us megawatts, which intensifies load shedding.”

Ramokgopa said additional interventions are needed to ensure the state-owned entity can turn that around.

“The levels of load shedding are not going down to where we want it to be. Even with this elevated the peak demand in my view when I was sharing with the team is that we should not be in way upwards of Stage 3 but it’s something that requires our collective attention.

“I do promise that we’re going to address this with the urgency that the state is required.”

Winter demand

While there have been challenges, Ramokgopa said they have been seeing some improvement since May this year on the generation side, since adding 1 600MW into the grid.

“And of course, on the human side, the expectation has always been that when you enter the latter part of June and into July, we’re going to see the demand that is spiking. And of course, that is our own projections, you can see that the demand in July has been greater than any other period during this winter.”

He added that Gauteng accounts for more demands for electricity like any other province and that weather conditions also play a role.

“If you look at national peak demand, Gauteng on average accounts for just shy of 30%, so Gauteng does matter.”

He announced that Eskom was working closely with the Gauteng provincial government and municipalities to be able to coordinate and orchestrate interventions to meet demand.

In addition, he said the entity also needs to ramp up planned maintenance.

Koeberg

The Minister told journalists that the delay in refurbishing Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant is receiving attention. The plant is expected to be decommissioned in July 2024, however, its licence has been extended to help relieve rolling power outages. The R20 billion life extention programme has been plagued by extensive delays.

Visibly upset, Ramokgopa said that after receiving an extensive presentation from the Koeberg plant project team recently, he did not have a clear picture of the situation. “And I’m just saying something that is beyond worrying and exceptionally upsetting. That brings other questions, if you can’t manage why should you have the confidence that you can do other more complex things?”

Ramokgopa added that there is a real danger of an overlap between the delayed return of unit 1 and the start of the refurbishment of unit 2 at Koeberg. “If that were to happen, we are going to lose an aggregate 1840 MW”

Read more on the major problems at Koeberg Nuclear Plant HERE 

Meanwhile, he said Eskom is working on an expansion of the grid, addressing issues of regulatory approvals, regional interconnectors and financing all efforts that will help end load shedding, the electricity minister concluded.

Meanwhile in Eskoms’ latest report release last night, they confirm Stage 4 loadshedding will be implemented from 14:00 today until 05:00 on Monday. Thereafter, Stage 3 loadshedding will be implemented from 05:00 until 16:00 on Monday, followed by Stage 4 loadshedding from 16:00 until 05:00 on Tuesday. From Tuesday onwards Stage 2 and 4 loadshedding will be implemented until further notice.

Breakdowns have increased to 16 943MW of generating capacity while the generating capacity out of service for planned maintenance is 3 761MW. Over the past 24 hours, a generating unit at Camden and Matla power stations were returned to service. In the same period, a generating unit each at Duvha, Grootvlei, Kriel and Matla power stations was taken offline for repairs. The delay in returning to service a generating unit at Kendal and two generating units at Tutuka power stations is contributing to the current capacity constraints.

Eskom week-on-week EAF (energy availability factor) for week 28, 2023, stands at 56.28%, while the EAF for the first 28 weeks of 2023 stands at 54.00%, which is 5.28 percentage points lower than the EAF of 59.28% for the same period last year – Chris Yelland

Safety concerns over Koeberg nuclear power plant are mounting among civil society groups. The Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde, last week again expressed grave concern over ongoing delays in refurbishments at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant.

Koberg spent fuel pool. Image credit: NNR

Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear facility, is situated about 35 km (21.75 miles) from Cape Town and was connected to the grid in the 1980s under apartheid. Koeberg produces about 32 tonnes of spent fuel a year. Fuel assemblies, which contain radioactive materials including uranium and plutonium that can remain dangerous for thousands of years, are cooled for a decade under water in spent fuel pools located under the plant. Eskom is currently using reinforced dry storage casks from U.S. energy company Holtec International to store spent fuel while the life extension programme is ongoing.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

1 Comment

  1. Ramapoesa is a Poo-tin puppet on

    “…I do promise that we are going to address this…”

    …uhm…it has been more than ten years…when did you think to start taking this seriously?!?!

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