Ramokgopa: ‘concerted effort’ reinstates 7 000MW capacity

“Our biggest enemy has been the unplanned capacity loss factor,” says Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/Independent Newspapers

“Our biggest enemy has been the unplanned capacity loss factor,” says Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/Independent Newspapers

Published May 7, 2024


Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has said that a concerted effort by Eskom has brought back 7 000 Megawatts (MW) of capacity since May, 2023.

This comes as load shedding remains suspended due to the continued sustained improvement in generation performance and 4 400MW reduction in unplanned outages.

Speaking at a media briefing on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan yesterday, Ramokgopa said, “Our biggest enemy has been the unplanned capacity loss factor (UCLF). I am happy to say that a concerted effort by the Eskom team is bearing fruit and the UCLF has been reduced from 18 196MW in May, 2023, to 11 036MW on May 5, this year,” Ramokgopa said.

“That means we have had a structural shift that has added more than 7 000MW to available capacity.”

Ramokgopa was at pains to stress that the current sequence of 40 days without load shedding had nothing to do with electioneering ahead of the May 29 national elections.

“There are some commentators that say Eskom is using expensive diesel-fuelled open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT) to ensure there is no load shedding ahead of the elections,” he said.

“But I am happy to say that since May 1 we have used no diesel at the OCGT and in April, 2024, the usage was less than a third of what it was in April, 2023.”

Ramokgopa said they were busy accumulating the days without load shedding so that soon they could use the unit of measure as being weeks, then months and eventually years, but he stressed that “one should not praise a fish for swimming”.

To address the long-term energy security needs Ramokgopa mentioned his visit to Richards Bay last week where he was briefed on a 3 000MW gas-to-power combined-cycle power plant (CCPP).

The CCPP is located in the Richards Bay industrial development zone (IDZ) and is a pioneering initiative in South Africa’s energy landscape.

Construction is likely to start in 2027, and it is expected to enter into commercial operation in 2028.

Eskom senior manager in the group executive generation office Eric Shunmagum said the improvement in Eskom’s power generation was reflected in the improvement of the energy availability factor (EAF) to 58.71% in week 15 of 2024, from only 49.99% in week 15 of 2023.

Shunmagum said the target was still to get to a consistent 65% EAF this financial year that ends in March, 2025, and reach 70% in the 2025/6 financial year.

He said the Winter Outlook assumed that peak demand would be near the 33 000MW-level from current levels near 28 000MW, while available capacity has trended around 30 000MW recently.

Ramokgopa said the peak winter demand would be met by reducing planned maintenance and keeping unplanned outages below 14 000MW.

Eskom’s plan is to reduce planned maintenance from 6 619MW in the week starting April 29 to only 2 580MW in the week starting July 15.

This reduction adds more than 4 000MW to available capacity.

The minister highlighted that when they looked at power plant performance, they took a “granular approach” and evaluated progress on a generating-unit basis.

“I am happy to say that for the first time in a long time that all six units at Kendal (power station) are supplying power to the grid,” he said.

When asked about Eskom employee morale, Ramokgopa said he had no scientific basis for measuring employee morale, but on his visits to power plants he noted a spring in the step of employees.

“Now that the leadership has stabilised, I can see on my visits to power plants that the mood is much better and that is reflected in the improvement in the performance,” Ramokgopa said.

“Employees are exerting themselves much harder and defending their assets. They are proud of their space,” he said.