/ 9 January 2024

‘Unreliable’ units means load-shedding won’t end soon, says Ramokgopa

Electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Photo by GCIS

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said it would be impossible to end load-shedding in the near future because the power fleet remains unreliable.

“I can’t stand here and tell the country that there will be no load-shedding going into the future. That’s why, when the alert goes out, it says ‘until further notice’. We have no control over some of these units; they are extremely unreliable,” he said at an energy action update on Tuesday.

Speaking at his first media briefing of the year, Ramokgopa said that although Eskom had made headway in ensuring that there was no load-shedding during the festive season, the power plants have continued to break down, necessitating blackouts.

“The units went out and we were forced to implement load-shedding again. We’re getting through that recovery and we’re experiencing a period of no load-shedding again. We will have this period of days of no load-shedding and then there will be days of load-shedding.”

Ramokgopa said a recent memorandum of understanding had clarified his powers and those of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. He had been given the responsibility of ensuring that transmission-related constraints were addressed. 

Under Eskom’s Transmission Development Plan, 1 675km of transmission lines have been planned for construction by 2027. Ramokgopa said his new powers would enable him to make recommendations, such as increasing transmission lines to 6 000km. 

“Of course, the Eskom balance sheet does not allow for that and that’s why I am expected to work out a solution on how best to finance that expansion, without relinquishing state ownership of the grid, but tapping into private sector liquidity,” he said.

Ramokgopa said the plan for rolling out grid infrastructure over the next three years was insufficient to end load-shedding and required private investment and funding from the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan.

His new powers give him the authority to issue requests for information and proposals for the financing of new transmission lines and to develop and agree on financing models with the treasury and the presidency.

Extending transmission lines is part of the utility’s turnaround plan stipulated in the department of public enterprises’s Roadmap for Eskom. This includes separating Eskom into three divisions — transmission, distribution and generation.

Eskom, which has registered its National Transmission Company of South Africa, announced on Tuesday that it had appointed 12 members and experts to the board of directors to guide the company in its plan to extend transmission lines and help Eskom generate income.

Over the past 10 years, the utility has built only 4 300km of transmission lines. For the country to move away from power shortages, it needs to build 14 000km by 2032 to enable new power players to contribute to the grid.