MINISTER of Electricity Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has warned that partial load losses remain the most significant threat in Eskom’s battle against rotational power cuts, in spite of succeeding in suspending load shedding for two consecutive days.
Partial load losses are when generation units run at below optimal levels usually as a result of a fault that requires the unit to be run at lower speed, or load, either because the fault results in the unit being unable to run at higher load, or because running the unit at full load with the fault could result in the unit breaking down.
Ramokgopa yesterday said partial load losses were the main challenge that Eskom was facing now as it was making small gains in other spheres of generation capacity.
“An area that remains an albatross that will require a significant amount of attention is on the partial load losses. The partial load losses continue to go up. We are at 8 285MW,” Ramokgopa said.
“To put that into context, compare it with the period of May. Remember that May is our baseline and we were sitting at about 6 793MW. So essentially, there's a shift of about 1 500MW of partial load losses, and that's something that is receiving significant attention.
“It is important that you address all these matrices. We addressed the unplanned capacity loss factor, we are addressing the partial load losses.
“And of course, once you address that, and with the demand going down, it gives us additional scope to be a bit more aggressive on planned maintenance without the need for us to intensify the stages of load shedding.”
On Saturday, Eskom returned to service the 800MW Unit 3 at Kusile power station, two months ahead of schedule among the three impacted by the collapse of stacks in October 2022.
This will be followed by Units 1 and 2 while Unit 5 will be synchronised to the grid by December.
Combined, these Kusile units will contribute 2 880MW, alleviating the pressure on the power system and further reducing load shedding towards the end of the year.
Tutuka achieved 1 500MW earlier than expected while concerted efforts at Majuba and Kriel Power Stations will yield more megawatts.
As a result of the return of Kusile Unit 3, Eskom suspended daytime load shedding over the weekend due to the sustained improved performance of generation availability as well as the anticipated lower demand.
Unplanned breakdowns were at 14 266MW of generating capacity while the capacity out of service for planned maintenance was 5 388MW.
Eskom’s head of generation Bheki Nxumalo yesterday said in addition to the gains that were being made at Kusile, they were on schedule to return Unit 1 at Koeberg nuclear power station by November 3 after finalising the replacement of steam generators.
Nxumalo also said the return of other units at Kusile later in the year will give Eskom enough room to perform its planned maintenance while not implementing higher stages of power cuts.
“Obviously, as we are going into summer there are other challenges that will come up, especially around December the maintenance period will be higher,” Nxumalo said.
“But so long as we continue to drive the unavailability low, it will help with that balance. That's what we want to see as well, that load shedding we drive it as low as possible. That gives us a buffer so that if we have a bad day, we are able to deal with the issues.”