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Thursday, 04 July 2024 20:32

South Africa hits 100 days with no load shedding despite Stage 2 winter outlook.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Today marks 100 days since South Africa has been free from load shedding - the longest break in four years. This was made possible by Eskom's improved performance and private investment in renewables. 

This miraculous reduction in load-shedding has given South Africans hope that rotational power cuts will end permanently. 

Eskom's management team has cautioned against this, saying at the beginning of the month that it still expects some load-shedding in winter. 

The utility noted in a recent statement that its system has come under increasing pressure during the morning and evening peaks, forcing it to use its Open-Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) to meet demand. 

Our operational efficiency continues to exceed expectations, with current unplanned outages still averaging 12,000MW, and today's recorded at 10,839MW, well below the winter forecast," said Eskom spokesperson, Daphne Mokwena.

She said Eskom remained committed to effectively managing electricity demand during peak times.

Our strategic use of peaking stations, including the Open-Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs), has been instrumental in meeting the heightened demand, particularly during evening peaks (from 5pm to 10pm).

"Notably, our diesel consumption has stayed under the projected figures for this winter and is considerably lower than the previous year's usage," she said.

Mokwena said their winter forecast, which was published on April 26, 2024, anticipated a likely scenario of unplanned outages at 15,500MW and load shedding limited to Stage 2. She said Eskom's outlook for winter remained at Stage 2 load shedding.

Eskom recently added 800W of power to South Africa's power mix through Kusile's Unit 5, which achieved commercial operation in June 2024.

"After six months of rigorous testing and optimisation, Eskom is pleased to announce the successful transfer of Unit 5 of the Kusile Power Station from the new build programme to operations in the Generation Division," said Eskom.

Eskom System Operator GM Isabel Fick says apart from the additional capacity, Kusile Unit 5 will also contribute to the stability of the grid.

"Kusile Unit 5 makes an extremely valuable contribution to the national grid. Not only is it one of the largest baseload units contributing megawatts, but it also enhances the stability of the network through its nature, "said Fick.

This is part of the 2 500MW Eskom hopes to add before the end of 2024, says Eskom CEO Dan Marokane. The utility expects to return to service another 800MW unit at Medupi and a 1 000MW unit at Koeberg.

In addition, Eskom has succeeded in keeping the level of unplanned breakdowns of its service below 30% for eight consecutive weeks. The average for the year to date is 28.95%, an improvement compared to 33.08% in 2023.

The latest weekly average energy availability factor is now at 62.28%, a huge improvement compared to the 54.69% average for the whole of 2023.

Outlook

The load shedding outlook is also much improved.

Eskom's 52-week outlook, on the assumption of 16 200MW of capacity having broken down unexpectedly, provides for only 12 weeks of load shedding at levels higher than Stage 2.

In reality these unplanned outages are currently below 12 000MW. If maintained, and with the additional generation capacity in mind, chances of load shedding seem to be dimming.

As the efficiency of Eskom's generation plant improves, operations should also run in a more cost-effective manner.

For example, in the 2020 financial year, with trips increasing to 711 (from 414 the previous year), Eskom's use of start-up oil increased by 130%. This resulted in an additional cost of R2.2 billion.

Eskom explains that heavy fuel oil is used to start up and shut down coal-fired power stations. The number of starts required depends on the number of outages – either planned or unplanned – and the number of trips at the units of a station.

Electricity Tarrifs

Meanwhile Johannesburg's Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda has defended the city's introduction of a R200 electricity surcharge for prepaid customers, emphasising the need for fairness and transparency around tariffs.

In a statement on Thursday, Gwamanda said the surcharge aims to fund new infrastructure and maintain existing infrastructure.

Gwamanda stressed that post-paid customers have already been paying the surcharge, and it is unfair for them to subsidise prepaid customers.

The mayor dismissed criticism from the Democratric Alliance(DA), accusing them of sensationalising the issue for political gain.

He pointed out that similar surcharges are being implemented in DA-run municipalities.

"The Democratic Alliance and its stooges are opportunistically sensationalising a sensitive matter that concerns us all. They are attempting to subvert council decisions by arousing public sentiment under false pretence to gain political mileage. The surcharge being introduced in Johannesburg is currently being implemented across DA run councils across the country, including in Cape Town and Tshwane," he said.

While acknowledging opposition to the surcharge, Gwamanda said Johannesburg’s infrastructure will fall apart without it.

"Any attempt to sabotage this critical intervention is an attempt to deliberately collapse the city’s infrastructure," he warned.

Gwamanda assured residents that the city understands residents' economic challenges but must act responsibly to ensure equality and sustainability.