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Sunday, 19 November 2023 10:41

Five Eskom generating units expected to return to service.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Minister in the presidency responsible for electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says the performance of South Africa's power grid has been disappointing over the last two weeks, largely due to the failure of more generating units at Eskom.

"(Previously) we were averaging less than 15 000 megawatts; in some instances we were even sub 14,000 MW. We were doing exceptionally well. And that's why you saw … the green period where we didn't have load-shedding for a period of eight days. And of course, in instances where we had load-shedding during that period, it was not as intense as we’re experiencing it now," he said.

"Part of the deterioration is as we have had a significant failure of a cluster of units in Eskom. If I were to compute from the 13th to the 17th of November, the available capacity was at about 26,499 MW. That is still lower than … what I use as the baseline case. The week before that we were 2 000 MW megawatts better than what has been the performance over the past week."

He said the failure of the cluster of units at the Kendal, Medupi, Hendrina, Duvha, Kriel and Camden power stations had forced Eskom to ramp up load-shedding to stage three. 

"So, I want to indicate that we do expect that five units should come back by tonight, and here I'm referring to Duvha unit number 5, Majuba unit 5 is already on load, and we are expecting Lethabo unit 4 to come on stream by about midnight today. Then we are also expecting about two units to come back tomorrow (Monday) and that’s Duvha unit number 6 and Arnot unit 3," said Ramokgopa.   

"Of course, this messaging is the functioning of our ability to keep to this timelines, and of course, you can see that some of them we had already delayed returned to service, but we are confident about the ability of bringing these units back on stream to ensure that we are able to address this situation."

After almost a year offline, Unit 1 at Koeberg power station has been successfully synchronised to the grid, Eskom announced on Saturday, 18 November. 

Ramokgopa also said the country's next renewables bidding round will "not be location agnostic" and will seek to direct projects to areas where there is sufficient grid connection capacity available.

"This time we're going to be specific around where these location should be for the new projects because we want to ensure that there's some degree of alignment between the projects and the availability of transmission capacity," the Minister said during his latest update on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan.

Hitherto, the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has been under way since 2011, has not had a specific geospatial dimension, with connections guided by Eskom's Generation Connection Capacity Assessment (GCCA).

During the most recent bid window, or Bid Window Six, none of the 23 wind projects that bid for a 3.2 GW allocation were selected as preferred bidders, however. This, after Eskom claimed that the grid capacity in the areas where the projects were proposed had been fully absorbed.

Bid Window Seven (BW7) was initially planned for launch in mid-year, but the deadline was missed, with the Independent Power Producer Office having indicated that the programme could be initiated only once there was clarity from Eskom on what connection capacity remained available.

At the end of October, Eskom published an updated GCCA showing that there was no longer any connection capacity in the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, the Western Cape and the Hydra Central grid area. However, the document indicated that there was 19.9 GW of grid capacity elsewhere in the country.

Eskom has also since acknowledged that some 4 GW of grid capacity in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces could be unlocked immediately by allowing for 10% curtailment and has promised to publish an addendum to the GCCA outlining its approach in this regard.

Curtailment involves the active reduction of output from wind and solar plants in response to system security needs or temporary transmission capacity constraints and is widely used by system operators globally to optimise the way the grid is utilised.

Ramokgopa, who previously indicated that BW7 would be launched in December, offered no confirmation regarding timeframes, saying only that efforts were being made to ensure that the next round did not suffer the same fate as the previous bidding round by matching "projects" to grid capacity".

"This is so that we're able to accelerate the progression of those projects and they're able to reach financial close as speedily as possible."

He also reported that the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP) implementation plan had been approved by Cabinet and would include the release of financial resources for the development of transmission infrastruture that could assist with the decarbonisation of the country’s electricity industry.

Several developed countries have pledged some $11.9-billion to support the JET-IP, with various policy loans having already been extended under the framework.

Meanwhile Ramokgopa will soon have his full powers, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The president said the matter was being "resolved and straightened out".

Ramaphosa appointed Ramokgopa as electricity minister in March to end power outages of up to 12 hours a day that have curbed output in Africa’s most industrialized economy. It took the president two months to assign powers to Ramokgopa as he sought to avoid fallout between the energy and public enterprises ministers, who oversee energy policy and state power utility Eskom, respectively.

Ramokgopa's current powers preclude him from any procurement or dealing directly with Eskom's board, meaning he needs the permission of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral & Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to make decisions.

Load-shedding, have eroded support for the ANC. The party, which won 57.5% of the vote in 2019, is at risk of losing its majority nationally next year for the first time since it came to power in 1994.

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Video Courtesy of GCIS.