Ramokgopa: No quick fix to end ramped up load-shedding

During a media briefing, South Africa’s Electricity Minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, explained the reasons behind the recent Stage 6 load-shedding implemented by Eskom. Ramokgopa emphasised the need for increased planned maintenance and addressing unplanned capacity losses to ensure system resilience. Eskom’s generation performance statistics and the struggle to maintain emergency reserves were also discussed. While Stage 6 load-shedding has caused concern, Eskom aims to return to lower stages of load-shedding as it works to safeguard the grid’s integrity.

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There is no shortcut to end load-shedding — Ramokgopa

By Myles Illidge

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says there is no shortcut to ending rotational power cuts in South Africa.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, 5 September 2023, the minister explained why Eskom had to implement Stage 6 load-shedding on Monday, 4 September.

He said the power utility could keep rotational power cuts at low levels during the winter months because it had reduced planned maintenance to avoid higher stages of load-shedding.

“Now that we have entered the summer period, demand has gone down. So we are ramping up planned maintenance,” said Ramokgopa.

“We are ramping up planned maintenance to ensure that we are able to build a degree of resilience in the system, to ensure that the units are reliable, and to ensure the units give us as many hours of generating capacity as possible.”

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He explained that a significant factor in Eskom’s need to implement Stage 6 load-shedding relates to unplanned capacity loss factors (UCLF) — essentially generation unit breakdowns.

“We want to ensure that we keep the UCLF at sub-15,000MW,” the minister said.

However, for the week from 28 August to 5 September 2023, which excludes weekends, Eskom only achieved this on three days.

“What has happened over the past few days is that the UCLF shot up to 17,297MW, in addition to ramped-up planned maintenance,” said Ramokgopa.

“The Stage 6 load-shedding that we are experiencing now is largely on account of, firstly, us [Eskom] ramping up planned maintenance, and the issues of UCLF.”

“I really want to conclude to say that there will not be a shortcut to the ending of load-shedding,” the minister added.

Eskom’s generation performance statistics, including available capacity, planned outages, UCLF, and forecasted demand, for the period from 28 August to 5 September, are summarised in the table below.

Eskom generation performance: 28 August to 5 September
DateAvailable capacity (MW)Planned outages (MW)UCLF (MW)Partial losses (MW)Forecasted peak (MW)Units at risk (MW)Outage slip (MW)Load-shedding
28 August27,9575,15914,7716,28728,2785,114784Stage 1/3
29 August25,9775,77016,1845,38928,5125,719766Stage 2/3
30 August26,1696,02015,5516,02028,5436,304766Stage 2/4
31 August26,8445,91714,9225,27827,3696,304766Stage 4
1 September26,7976,68314,5156,03127,1205,711766Stage 4
4 September25,9815,89415,6996,19028,6034,776766Stage 4/5
5 September25,0605,46717,2975,98828,3034,7761,341Stage 6
Average26,3985,84415,5635,89528,1435,529851

However, Ramokgopa’s figures show a shortfall of approximately 3,200MW from the forecasted evening peak — equivalent to Stage 4 load-shedding, not Stage 6.

Bheki Nxumalo, group executive for generation at Eskom, clarified that the need for Stage 6 load-shedding related to the power utility not having enough emergency reserves.

“Stage 6 is something that we are, at all costs, working to avoid because of its impact,” said Nxumalo.

“On a day when you lose more [generation capacity], then you start to use more of the reserves, which created a problem.”

He explained that available pumped storage reserves started to deplete on 29 August, which was compounded when Eskom lost generating units from 2 September.

“Some of these units have not returned. We are still busy with them,” said Nxumalo.

“So that led to our reserves being depleted, and we didn’t have enough time to recover them.”

Nxumalo added that Eskom can’t let its emergency reserves go below a certain level, which the System Operator controls to protect the grid’s integrity.

“Towards the end of the week, I am confident that we will be able to return to lower stages of load-shedding,” he added.

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This article was first published by MyBroadBand and is republished with permission

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