Eskom power station challenges can be resolved - Electricity Minister

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says the electricity crisis South Africa is facing can be resolved despite the challenges at Eskom.

The Minister said this during a media briefing on Thursday following his visits to power stations in March.

At the briefing, Ramokgopa laid out the challenges at each of the state-owned power utility’s stations including issues related to the workers’ morale with some stations up for decommissioning in the near future, the quality of coal for power stations due to under investment and the emissions levels at some power stations.

These challenges, combined with other factors, have resulted in Eskom’s low Energy Availability Factor (EAF) and an electricity supply deficit of some 6000 megawatts [MW] – triggering the need for load shedding to protect the grid.

“I am more than confident that we have the capacity, the will and the expertise to resolve load shedding. I am sure that once I go to Cabinet and map out what these options [to solve challenges at power stations] are, we should be able to say that these are the timelines.

“We know that the [EAF]…explains why there is a deficit between the generation and the demand and the quest is to close that gap. There are three ways of resolving this problem. The first one is to ensure that we ramp up generation capacity. The second option is to ensure that we bring down this demand and we know that the system operator…to address when demand outstrips supply, to maintain the system at 50 hertz introduces load shedding.

“The third option is our preferred option and that is - you do both. You ramp up generation and reduce demand. [However] as you bring down demand, don’t undermine the ability of households to meet their daily needs [and] you don’t undermine the ability of business and commerce to operate and meet their commercial targets so that we get the economy of South Africa going,” he said.

Regarding the challenges, Minister Ramokgopa said there are several solutions which government must mull over.

“On the issues of emissions…the options of whether you [apply for] exemptions but committing to mitigating over a period to addressing those emission levels [may add] another 1000 megawatts [to the grid]. The issues around investments in the quality of coal at the mines so that we assist the miners to get us the right quality of coal…and therefore the efficiency of the plants and emissions is possible if we make those investments.

“The issues around ensuring that we keep up the morale, essentially extending the life of these plants. [This will give] us the scope to get that 6000MW and not be on an aggressive accelerated path of decarbonisation but still committing to the decarbonisation journey,” he said.

Ramokgopa emphasised that all of government’s efforts to resolve the energy crisis facing the country are focused on ensuring the impact on both South Africans and the economy are mitigated.

“What is confronting us is the need to ensure that everything that we do is in favour of South Africa and her people. So there are overriding considerations outside the narrow confines of what it is that Eskom can offer.

“More broadly, the conversation is about what is in the best interest of the country to get the economy going and that conversation is going to be superior or more significant than just a conversation about Eskom.

“It’s not about how you preserve, protect [and] enhance the balance sheet of Eskom but it’s to make sure that we get sufficient electrons to power the economy and ensure that we resolve load shedding,” he said. –