New twist in IPP bat­tle as Eskom may close sta­tions early

CityPress - - Business - DE­WALD VAN RENSBURG de­wald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za MW

Eskom has been vague when it comes to back­ing up its claims about five power sta­tions that will have to close early due to the ex­pected in­clu­sion of more re­new­able en­ergy pro­duc­ers.

Not even the three unions that have met with Eskom ex­ec­u­tives over the past few weeks have been given de­tails about how much sooner the five – mostly very old – sta­tions will close.

Two of the power sta­tions were sched­uled to start their fi­nal de­com­mis­sion­ing in 2020 and the re­main­ing three in 2024, 2025 and 2026, re­spec­tively.

Al­though Eskom has re­peat­edly said that it would bring these de­com­mis­sion­ings for­ward, it has not in­di­cated by how much.

Eskom is blam­ing the de­ci­sion to speed up its de­com­mis­sion­ing sched­ule on the Re­new­able En­ergy In­de­pen­dent Power Producer Pro­cure­ment (REIPPP) pro­gramme, which legally obliges it to buy all the power pro­duced by pri­vate wind and so­lar plants.

In the process, Eskom has ef­fec­tively en­listed the unions at its op­er­a­tions as al­lies in its con­tin­u­ing cam­paign against pri­vate re­new­ables.

The Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of SA (Numsa), as well as the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM), has di­rected its anger at the REIPPP pro­gramme.

Numsa promised to or­gan­ise a na­tional shut­down to protest the clo­sures and has sub­mit­ted a sec­tion 77 no­tice to the Na­tional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Labour Coun­cil – the pre­cur­sor to a pro­tected na­tional gen­eral strike.

The NUM has like­wise promised a “rolling mass ac­tion” to get the REIPPP pro­gramme re­versed.

How­ever, NUM spokesper­son Livhuwani Mamm­buru this week told City Press that Eskom had not in­di­cated when it in­tended to close the sta­tions.

In­for­ma­tion from mem­bers in­di­cates that at least one of them, Hen­d­rina, might start clos­ing in 2018, but there has been no for­mal no­tice from Eskom, he said.

Deon Reyneke, the en­ergy sec­tor head at union 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 Sol­i­dar­ity, said that Eskom had not yet re­sponded to its re­quests for more in­for­ma­tion.

Asked if Eskom had pro­vided a time­line for the plant clo­sures, Numsa said: “Eskom has not in­di­cated to us whether it in­tended to moth­ball the plants.”

The union also said that Eskom had pre­sented the de­ci­sion to close plants as “a di­rec­tive from gov­ern­ment”.

This un­cer­tainty has not stopped the NUM and Numsa from adopt­ing al­most ex­actly the same po­si­tion – re­new­ables are good, but can­not be in­tro­duced at the cost of coal jobs.

The clo­sure of the five sta­tions, namely Ko­mati, Kriel, Cam­den, Grootvlei and Hen­d­rina, will take a nom­i­nal 8 000 megawatts off the na­tional grid, al­though not all of them are run­ning at ca­pac­ity.

The lat­est de­com­mis­sion­ing sched­ule was re­leased as part of the new In­te­grated Re­source Plan in Novem­ber.

The only im­me­di­ate change to this sched­ule, com­pared with the one in 2013, was that the clo­sure of Hen­d­rina was brought for­ward from 2021 to 2020.

Not long for this eArth

Built Planne4 4ecom­mis­sion­ing 4ate Ca­pac­ity (MW) 1961 2024 1 000 1970 2020 2 000

EX­CESS POWER

“The de­com­mis­sion­ing will be brought for­ward in an ef­fort to cre­ate space for re­new­ables,” in­sists Eskom spokesper­son Khulu Phasiwe.

But even with­out the REIPPP pro­gramme, Eskom will have ex­cess power.

“It is im­por­tant to note that if the econ­omy was grow­ing at 4.5% as pro­jected in the [In­te­grated Re­source Plan 2010], or if the elec­tric­ity de­mand was [grow­ing by] 2.8%, there would be no need for Eskom to close the power sta­tions,” said Phasiwe.

“The re­al­ity is that elec­tric­ity de­mand has re­mained stag­nant and [eco­nomic growth] has shrunk to 0.3%,” he told City Press.

“Not­with­stand­ing the fact that Eskom now has a sur­plus of more than 4 000MW on any given day, Eskom has an obli­ga­tion to add new re­new­able en­ergy projects to the grid,” he said.

“Eskom is ba­si­cally left with no op­tion but to close five of its power sta­tions.

“Not sign­ing the In­de­pen­dent Power Producer Pro­cure­ment pro­gramme was not an op­tion.”

South Africa’s peak power de­mand last year was lower than it was a decade ago, and was far be­low the medi­umterm pro­jec­tions Eskom is still us­ing.

The al­ready large sur­plus of elec­tric­ity in the coun­try is at least 4 000MW at peak de­mand ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to Eskom.

While there are re­new­able projects with a ca­pac­ity of 2 900MW con­nected to the grid, the so­lar projects in par­tic­u­lar make lit­tle con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing the evening peak elec­tric­ity us­age time.

Clos­ing the sta­tions early will also al­low Eskom to avoid ex­pen­sive retrofittings to re­duce emis­sions.

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