/ 13 May 2024

Ramokgopa: Eskom achieves milestone of 70% energy availability factor

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa 45
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. (Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eskom has breached the energy availability factor of 70% for the first time since 2021, said Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

Speaking at the Kusile power station on Monday, he said the early return of the station’s units had contributed an additional 2 400 megawatts to the electricity grid, boosting Eskom’s energy availability factor.

“We have been deliberate on how to quickly return these three units — one, two and three. And as a result of returning them early as per plan, we’ve gotten the benefit of an additional 2 400 MW and those are contributing to the resolution of this problem. So, the point I’m making is that all these efforts are orchestrated. There’s nothing sudden about what you are seeing today,” Ramokgopa said.

The energy availability factor is used to measure power stations’ performance.

“And in fact the picture looks even exceptionally better. What is it — I’m happy to say to say to the country, as I stand before today, the energy availability factor of Eskom has breached the 70% mark. So we are at 70.78[%]. That’s significant.”

He said the last time Eskom had achieved a 70% energy availability factor was in August 2021, adding:  “The month-to-date statistics suggest that we are at 64.34% and the year to date we are at 59.92%, just shy of 60%.”

“Kusile today is trending close to 93%,” he said. “This kind of achievement has been attained by these competent men and women, dedicated and patriotic to the resolution of the load-shedding question.”

South Africa has had 47 days without load-shedding. Ramokgopa said the improvement was not a result of burning diesel, but rather maintenance and better-performing coal power stations. He said the diesel use was lower than the same time last year.

Responding to suggestions that improved power supply was a result of burning more diesel, he said: “There could be nothing further from the truth. This is anchored by these machines that are at Kusile and many other power stations. What anchors this recovery is the performance of these coal fired power stations.”

He attributed the improvement of the energy availability factor to the maintenance programme, which took place in December and January. He also said the energy action plan unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa, appointing the Eskom board, stabilising the management teams and performance-related incentive bonuses played a role in Eskom’s success. 

“This ‘short-term pain, long-term gain’ strategy is now paying off, as much of that capacity is brought back online ahead of the winter season when demand is typically higher.” 

Ramokgopa said the improvements in the energy availability factor of older power stations such as Lethabo and Matla had contributed to better performance.

He added that the halt in load-shedding was because of the enhanced performance of the coal fleet, and the support from solar power during the day.

“The aggressive maintenance-led recovery plan is beginning to yield fruits. When we went into December 2023, transitioning into January 2024, we reached the highest levels of planned maintenance in the period of three years. We took out 18% of the total generating capacity into planned maintenance and these units are coming back,” Ramokgopa said.

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said although it was too early to announce an end to load-shedding, there had been a significant improvement in the reduction of power cuts through the implementation of the energy action plan.

“The sustained improvement in the performance of Eskom’s power stations, as well as the new generation capacity we have added to our energy system gives us hope that the end of load-shedding is in sight,” Ramaphosa said.

The energy availability factor had been above 60% since April, compared to 53% over the same period last year, the president added.