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    ‘High degree of uncertainty’ in Eskom’s recent load shedding downgrade

    January 17, 2023 - Kristin Engel


      Cape Town - Energy experts believe it is not possible to return Eskom to its former state as climate change and clean technologies have fundamentally changed the rules of energy markets and what makes a sustainable and viable utility.

      They continue to warn that if the government and Eskom did not take heed of this and plan for a sustainable energy transition, this bout of load shedding will be the first of many energy crises to come for the country.

      In a statement, Eskom on Monday alerted that the county could expect Stage 4 load shedding from 5am to 4pm and Stage 5 load shedding from 4pm to 5am daily.

      This was a slight reduction from Stage 6 as 14 generators were expected to return to service during this week, which would help to ease the pressure on the power system.

      Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said there was a high degree of uncertainty associated with this load shedding update and that these changes would only be possible in their entirety if the units returned to service as planned.

      Eskom warned that changes in the stages of load shedding could occur at any time and at short notice due to the “inherent unreliability” of the coal power station fleet.

      On January 6, Eskom procured an additional 50 million litres of diesel, which was being utilised sparingly to manage the pumped storage dam levels and to limit the amount of load shedding during the day.

      This statement came after Eskom postponed Monday afternoon’s media briefing where outgoing Eskom CEO André de Ruyter together with his management team was expected to provide an update on current system challenges.

      Mantshantsha said the postponement was due to emergency engagements with President Cyril Ramaphosa and that the details of the briefing could only be confirmed once meetings with the president concluded.

      Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the president would be engaging in more briefing sessions with key stakeholders during this week after his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos was cancelled.

      The Energy Council of South Africa said that the increased focus by the government on supporting Eskom operations, maintenance and dealing with criminality, corruption and related issues was correct and necessary but at this stage these commitments were vague with little to no clarity on who would be held accountable by when.

      Energy Council of South Africa CEO James Mackay said: “Some of this focus and action is being driven through the National Electricity Crisis Committee (Neccom) but while the committee is showing progress in other areas, such as cutting red tape on renewable project permitting, there is little clarity on how and by when they will intervene on Eskom operations improvements as well as who will be held accountable should the actions not be delivered.”

      Argon Poorun, an energy analyst at GreenCape, said: “Eskom is historically renowned for its expertise in delivering coal generated power, (however) the energy availability factor of its coal fleet has declined from -94% in 2002 to -53% at its lowest in 2022.

      “This indicates that it cannot be solely relied upon for supplying all of the country’s energy needs, particularly in the short-to-medium term.”

      Poorun said it was suggested that the unbundling of energy generation and transmission divisions be prioritised and allow for generation to follow the course of a free market through more efficient independent power producers (both renewable and dispatchable sources).


      Cape Argus


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