/ 20 May 2024

Ramokgopa again denies lack of load-shedding is to do with elections

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Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

Eskom is working diligently to execute the energy action plan, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said, again denying that the long stretch without load-shedding was a ploy to help the governing ANC in next week’s general elections.

During a weekly media briefing on the country’s energy performance on Monday, Ramokgopa noted that the country had gone for 54 days without blackouts, adding: “Ordinarily, this is not something to be celebrated because the expectation is that you must deliver on your primary mandate. The country has some degree of appreciation of where we are coming from — three or four months ago I was explaining why we are at load-shedding stage six.”

“We can dispel any myth that Eskom is doing everything in its power to save the 29th of May [elections]. We are seeing an exceptionally improved energy action plan.”

He reiterated that the status quo was the “long-term gain” from the “short-term pain” of maintenance work done at Eskom’s power stations at the end of last year.

“We reached the height of planned maintenance … From December 2023 and January 2024, we took out about 18% of generation capacity — almost 9 000 megawatts — and these are coming back and are healthier,” Ramokgopa said.

From 1 April — the start of Eskom’s year — to date, there had been an improvement in the energy availability factor of nine percentage points to 60.5%, compared with 51.7% at the same time last year, he said, adding: “This is a considerable improvement.”

He said the unplanned capability loss factor — unplanned loss of energy as a result of generating units not functioning well or at all — was at 28.2%, compared with 35.6% last year.

“We had around 15 000MW on May’s baseline for 2023, now we’re at 11 110MW, significantly better than the same period last year … We clawed back around five stages of load-shedding. It’s a significant performance and not something instantaneous or sudden as many want to believe,” Ramokgopa said.

He added that it was clear that the utility was in a better place than it had been at the same time over the past two years and the trendline was going up. There were points where the energy availability factor hit 70% on weekly performance, he said.

Ramokgopa said he wanted to repel two “myths”, the first being that Eskom was being saved by solar energy, although he conceded that solar was a major part of the plan and this was why the treasury had introduced incentives for households and businesses in this area. 

The minister said he hoped that, by the end of the year, solar could add 6 000MW to the grid. He said renewables used in conjunction with coal were helping to solve the load-shedding problem, adding: “We must celebrate that solar PV (photovoltaic) is contributing.” 

He said the second myth was that Eskom was using too much diesel to keep the lights on, reiterating that open-cycle gas turbines, powered by the liquid fuel, were a key part of Eskom’s fleet.

So far this year, Eskom had spent R1.24 billion on diesel, compared with R5.2 billion at the same time last year. 

Eskom had staved off load-shedding last week after some units failed through the use of open-cycle gas turbines and also “because of the health of other units”.

“As units come back, we can lower diesel use,” he said.

Ramokgopa said fewer power units were expected to be down this winter compared with last year, meaning that during peak times, when more power was used, there would be enough electricity to ensure that load-shedding did not reach high stages. 

“We are tapering down maintenance to prepare for winter. There will be a winter peak but we won’t do maintenance, so units can come online. When there are lower peaks, we will do maintenance,” he said.