/ 9 April 2024

Ramokgopa: renewables won’t end load-shedding but have a role to play

Electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Photo by GCIS

Renewables will not end load-shedding but have a role to play in lessening it, electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said.

Power utility Eskom will take advantage of additional capacity generated from wind energy to lessen the effects of load-shedding from May, Ramokgopa told a media briefing on Tuesday.

“In winter, when the cold front passes through the Western and Eastern Cape the wind generation increases significantly, so we are going to see a greater contribution from wind energy during those months,” he said.

The Western and Eastern Cape have been earmarked for wind energy because they have an abundant supply of the resource.

But despite its wind abundance, the minister said it was a misnomer to talk of renewables saving the country from load-shedding, and that coal-fired and renewable sources were important to increase the energy availability factor from 52% to 60%.

He added that although renewable energy is intermittent, it contributes to the grid during peak hours.

“During the summer months, the wind generation aligns almost perfectly with the high evening peak demand and the low night minimum demand. Wind energy is performing its intended function to contribute to Eskom,” he said. 

Renewable energy, including solar and wind, contributes 5 440MW to the grid, the minister said, adding that when renewables fail to provide the needed reprieve, especially during night peak (between 6pm and 9pm), Eskom is forced to rely on more expensive diesel energy.

The minister said although the winter plan was not completed as yet, Eskom expects R30 billion to be set aside for diesel procurement. This is a little more than the R27.9 billion diesel budget the utility received for the 2023/24 financial year.

Eskom has not implemented load-shedding for 13 days, the longest stretch without rolling power cuts this year. Ramokgopa attributed the reprieve to maintenance, saying stage one and two load-shedding accounted for half of the power cuts experienced in 2024, compared with stages four and five last year.

“So what is the message that we are conveying here? It’s that the intensity of load-shedding is coming down and that’s the point I make all the time,” he said.

Government critics have however said the sudden easing of load-shedding was a political move aimed at stopping the ruling ANC from bleeding votes in the 29 May general elections.

In January, the Mail & Guardian reported that Eskom had been mandated by the government to ease load-shedding in the build-up to the elections to avoid “agitating to overthrow the state”.

On Tuesday, Ramokgopa said within the next five months, the country would see over 2 500MW of new generation coming online, adding that planned maintenance allowed for the accelerated sourcing of spares. 

“We made the ramping up of planned maintenance very important. That’s why I made the point that if you look at the December period of 2023 going into January 2024, we took out 18% of the generation of energy capacity, about 9 000MW for planned maintenance.” the minister said.

“We’re beginning to see that these machines are coming back into service. They’re coming back on load and they are adding to the capacity on the grid and this is helping us to address the demand.”

Eskom is expected to announce its winter plan before the end of May.