Eskom has ramped up load-shedding to replenish emergency reserves

Acting finance minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. PHOTO: Nigel Sibanda

On Sunday 19 November, Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa revealed that Eskom is intensifying power cuts to restore emergency reserves. This decision follows the announcement by the state-owned power entity of the implementation of Stage 3 load-shedding until Monday. The objective is to replenish emergency reserves in anticipation of the upcoming week. Eskom suffered the loss of several units from various power stations nationwide, resulting in a total reduction of over 2,700 megawatts (MW).

“If we had not experienced that, of course, you would not be seeing the kind of intensity of load-shedding that we are experiencing,” the minister explained. He also said that the return of Units 1 and 3 in Kusile Power Station has made a significant impact.

“As big units return, when you see the kind of cluster of failures that we’ve seen, the intensity of load-shedding is not as acute. Of course, we’re on Stage 3 [load-shedding] and that’s the highest that we have experienced. But what Unit 1 and 3 have done is to create an additional buffer and that’s why it’s important that Unit 2 and 5 also return.”  Ramokgopa also said that this kind of failure of generating units has resulted in the continued burning of diesel and open-cycle gas turbines (OGGT) running on steam.

“That’s something that we haven’t done and avoided over the past four or five weeks, before the last two weeks. We’ve been burning very little diesel and preserved that and ensured that we rely on the ability of the units on their own to give us the megawatts that are required.”

Eskom, according to Ramokgopa, did not anticipate the extent of the latest breakdown. “Failure will be a given in any engineering component. But I think what has been the major issue here is the clustering of this failure,” he said.

On Saturday, Unit 1 at Koeberg Power Station achieved a successful synchronisation with the grid, after nearly a year offline. Eskom highlighted that this outage stands as the longest in the power station’s history, during which three new steam generators were effectively installed, replacing the original ones.

“The expectation is that it must return back to service on time. But if you had to draw from the experiences of Unit 1, it doesn’t give us that degree of confidence and that’s why there’s that discussion that we have with the management.

“We expect the second synchronisation to happen on the 2nd and 3rd of December. And then that’s when I’m sure that we will be able to take out Unit 2 for the kind of attention that is required so that we’re able to meet the licensing requirements,” added Minister Ramokgopa.

Meanwhile, he informed the media that the government is swiftly addressing policy matters, providing clarity on South Africa’s energy mix, transmission interventions, and anticipated additional generation capacity. The expected resolution of these issues is by the end of December this year.

Compiled by Warren Hawkins