/ 6 May 2024

Ramokgopa: No link between elections and no load-shedding

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa2
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

The country has now had 40 days without load-shedding as a result of “an orchestrated effort and engineering feat by the team at Eskom” and not because the government is looking to the elections later this month, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said on Monday.

Ramokgopa told a media briefing that the ability to avoid load-shedding was also because of maintenance last year as well as lower peak-time demands.

“What we know is that the unplanned capacity loss factor is tracking at about 29% as of April 2024, as opposed to 34% of April 2023. So we have recovered, in percentage terms, five percentage points over this year’s April compared to last year’s April,” he said.

The unplanned capability loss factor refers to unplanned loss of energy as a result of generating units not functioning well or at all.

“You do not earn and recover that five percentage points suddenly because the date of the elections has been announced,” Ramokgopa said, adding that credit was due to the staff at Eskom.

“When the team were making these efforts, when we ramped up planned maintenance in December and January, little did we know that there would be a big date with ballots,” he said.

“This is a result of process mapping, in engineering terms, the stabilisation of management ensuring that we use and deploy this fiscal injection received from the national treasury, identifying candidate stations that can give us the best returns in a short space of time.”

“There is no correlation between this performance and the date of the 29th of May,” he reiterated. 

Some sceptics have suggested that Eskom has been able to keep the lights on by burning more diesel because the governing ANC is worried that implementing load-shedding in the run up to the elections would hurt its chances with voters.

But Ramokgopa debunked these allegations, saying the utility has only relied on maintenance. He added that Eskom expects to use less diesel in this financial year and not repeat last year’s situation where it spent R21 billion — R15 billion more than the R6.1 billion the utility was approved to spend.

Ramokgopa said the Eskom board was on track to end load-shedding after achieving its 65% energy availability factor target — a measure of plant performance — for 2024. The  board was in 2022 mandated to achieve an energy availability factor target of 65% for March 2024 and 70% for April 2025.

Eskom was seeing a positive trend towards its goal of ending load-shedding, Ramokgopa said on Monday. “I will not make a false claim that we are there, but we are getting there even much quicker than we had anticipated.”

He said the return to service of Medupi unit four with 800 megawatts, Koeberg unit two (980MW) and the synchronisation of Kusile Unit six (800MW), which would add 2 580MW of power to the grid in the next six months, would continue to improve Eskom’s prospects, especially in the winter months. 

In a statement on Sunday, Eskom said over the past few weeks “there has been a consistent and significant improvement in curbing unplanned outages — due to the success of the generation operational recovery plan which commenced in March 2023”.

On Monday Ramokgopa said unplanned outages were on a downward trajectory, saying: “From 26 April 2024 to date, unplanned outages have reduced by close to 4 400MW from 15 523MW to 11 036MW.”