Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has provided an update on the current electricity crisis in South Africa, stating that there is a plan for winter, and the next nine months.
At a media briefing on Wednesday (3 April), Gordhan said that Eskom and the Department of Public Enterprises has a better understanding of the challenges facing the power utility, and how to tackle them.
South Africa was hit with unexpected stage 4 load shedding in March, leaving roads grid-locked and citizens without power for hours at a time.
During that time, Gordhan could not provide any guideline on how to end load shedding, saying that an independent team of engineers was in the processes of assessing Eskom’s power plants to determine the extent of the problems.
While the team’s work is not yet complete – needing an additional few weeks – there is now enough information to plot a way forward, Gordhan said, particularly in preparation for the winter months, where demand on the grid is higher.
The minister said that while the aim is to ensure no future load shedding going forward – this is not a guarantee. “(If this aim fails), at the most, we will see only level 1 load shedding between now and the end of August,” he said.
Eskom chair, Jabu Mabuza, provided an update on major constraints that led to load shedding:
Coal stockpiles have improved;
Coal quality is also being focused on;
Eskom has been able to source more diesel, and is handling forward planning around diesel better;
Eskom is not retrenching workers, but is looking at voluntary separation packages to tackle its workforce issues.
Plan for winter
Eskom’s plan for winter is to look at different scenario’s based on available capacity on the national grid. The power utility has installed capacity of 46,500MW, with support from 2,000MW from renewable sources.
Unplanned outages due to boiler leaks, led to as much as 13,000MW being taken off the grid last month.
In a ‘no load shedding’ scenario, these unplanned outages need to be kept below 9,500MW, Gordhan said.
These are the scenarios:
Unplanned outages is kept to under 9,500MW
No load shedding
Planned outages within a range of 3,000MW to 5,000MW
Unplanned outages exceed 9,500MW
Maximum of 26 days of stage 1 load shedding over the 5 months
Eskom said that its units actually perform better in winter, due to lower temperatures, so it is confident it will be able to keep unplanned outages below the 9,500MW limit.
To keep the situation at scenario one, Eskom said it will increase supply from existing units, while bringing more power online.
Key to the plan, Gordhan said that there needs to be a shift from all South Africans in how they consumer electricity, along with more accountability from Eskom.
“Clearly plans are nice to have, the key is the discipline to ensure that implementation occurs. We need increased levels of accountability, said Gordhan. We are appealing to all to reduce the use of electricity. We don’t want load shedding,” he said.
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