Load shed­ding again a pos­si­bil­ity

De­spite the prom­ise by Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa of a bright Christ­mas, break­downs may re­sult in black­outs.

The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Amanda Wat­son

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.

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