South Africa: Ramokgopa says Kusile is the answer to SA’s load shedding crisis

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said Kusile Power Station offers a solution to SA’s load shedding crisis – speaking at the weekly Energy Action Plan (EAP) media briefing. “Kusile presents a significant path out of load shedding,” said Ramokgopa. He further said that Kusile Unit 4 which was previously taken off supply for planned maintenance resumed operations on Sunday – adding 800MW to the grid, and trimming “one stage” of load shedding.
“We’re closer to resolving this problem [load shedding]… we need that additional generation capacity,” said Ramokgopa.

Meanwhile Unit 3 remains under maintenance and is expected to re-start power generation on 14 October, a month earlier than initially anticipated, due to active efforts to speed up the process “without compromising on engineering quality,” said ‘Ramakgopa.

He also said most of the work on Kusile Unit 1 had been completed, adding it would resume generating power on 30 October. Units 1 and will add 1,600 MW to the grid, according to Ramokgopa. However, Kusile Unit 2 will take a little longer as it’s expected to resume operations on 30 November. Ramakgopa said a fifth unit would be added to Kusile’s power generation capacity. Unit 5 which was initially expected to take off on 28 October, has since been pushed back to focus on stabilising the four existing units.

“Kusile is central to addressing the load shedding question,” Ramokgopa said.

‘Short-term pain, long-term gain’
The Electricity Minister said the past two weeks of Stage 6 load shedding were as result of Eskom’s strategy to ramp up planned maintenance of power stations, adding the decision was a “calculated risk.” He also acknowledged the “significant” impact of load shedding on SA’s economy.

“The issue of load shedding has a devastating impact on the daily lived experiences of our people, undermines business growth, and has the potential to contract the SA economy,” Ramokgopa said.
Noting the “inherent risk” of power cuts, Ramokgopa said however, “the point we’re making is short-term pain for long-term gain – and we’ll begin to see the results of the work we’re doing overtime.”
“There’s been a significant improvement on the energy availability factor,” he added.

Money matters
Ramokgopa reiterated that Eskom had been exploring various financing options to “expand” the grid – said at a rate that would make it possible for the power utility to accommodate new generating capacity, especially from renewable energy sources. He said Eskom would host a transmission financing seminar in collaboration with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), whose financial insights would come in handy, according to Ramokgopa. The electricity minister also said that grid financing would require an estimated R210 billion, adding that studies indicated the cost could be higher than the projected amount.

Environmental concerns
Ramakgopa said commissioning Kusile Units 1, 2 and 3 would require an exemption from the Minster of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (Environmental Minister), hinging on Eskom’s promise to restore circulation of Kusile’s Flue Gas Desulfurisation Unit by end of 2024 – to comply with licensing requirements. He said the exemption was granted on condition that Eskom provided a comprehensive plan to minimise the power units’ environmental impact – after which the power utility commenced with constructions.

The Minister also said there were objections on the project hindering Eskom from effectively restoring Kusile Units 1,2 and 3, which the power producer had since responded to. “The team has applied itself, got the best experts, engaged with communities [who] responded comprehensively,” said Ramokgopa. “We’ll leave that in the hands of the [Environmental] Minister… at the right time, she’ll give us feedback,” he said.

Grid performance

The grid’s available capacity on Monday 11 September was 26,332 MW, closing the week on 27,760 MW on Friday. Ramokgopa said the power utility took advantage of decreased demand for electricity towards the end of winter by ramping up planned power outages by 2.5 times, after previously reducing load shedding to keep up with the cold season’s energy demands.

He said planned maintenance was key to reducing unplanned capacity loss factor from failure and tripping of power units – adding that overtime the units would become more resilient to generate more power to improve grid capacity.

Ramakgopa said that partial load losses – stations that aren’t peaking at their full potential capacity, and “units at risk” – units taken out for planned maintenance, were a “receiving” attention to address the units’ respective challenges.

The average unplanned capacity loss factor for the past week was 16,588 MW, while the target remains 15,000 MW for starters with 14,000 MW being the desired end-goal.