Load shedding again a possibility
Despite the promise by President Ramaphosa of a bright Christmas, breakdowns may result in blackouts.
Eskom is again teetering on the edge of rolling blackouts with unplanned breakdowns at 12 535MW as of 7am yesterday, just 76MW short of the 13 302MW which saw Eskom move to stage 2 load shedding nine days ago.
“There is no load shedding expected today as a result of a drop in demand during the holiday period and a return of some generating units into service. Eskom will continue to use emergency reserves to supplement capacity if necessary over this period,” the utility said.
As the system continued to “be vulnerable and unpredictable”, the possibility of load shedding remained, Eskom noted.
The current loss of 12 535MW left the utility very “tight”, energy expert Chris Yelland said yesterday. “It is a very high figure of unplanned outages. Fortunately demand is very low, so we might scrape by. The trouble is there is a lack of transparency about what is really going on.”
Nine days ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared Eskom had assured him “we should not be in a position to have any form of load shedding”.
But then a power station’s coal chute went up in flames on Tuesday. Eskom called it “an unfortunate incident”.
Ten days ago SA was subjected to stage 6 load shedding, with alleged sabotage apparently a contributing factor, according to Ramaphosa who noted on Daily Maverick on Wednesday: “A fundamental shift in the country’s approach to power generation has gone largely unnoticed.
“In the wake of the hugely damaging power shortages of the last two weeks, government has agreed — in keeping with the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 — to allow users to generate power for their own use and to accelerate the purchase of power from independent producers.
“In effect, the path has been cleared for the expansion and diversification of energy production on a significant scale.”
But with almost every piece of relevant legislation still in draft form, not everyone is buying Ramaphosa’s good faith.
“We have Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe saying one thing, then the president saying another, I don’t know if this is a deliberate strategy to keep as many people as quiet as possible,” Yelland said.
Mantashe recently shrunk the window for new independent power producer applications from three years to three months.
But Yelland said there was no need for the red tape.
“The shortest way of bringing new capacity onto the grid is for customers to build their own generation. The potential could be unlocked very quickly if everyone in government was on the same page,” he said.