That is what it’s going to take for South Africa’s ailing energy utility to maintain going

Outages are an everyday incidence that are estimated to price the nation’s financial system about US$1 million an hour.

This text first appeared in The Dialog.

The chief working officer of South Africa’s electrical energy utility, Eskom, warned in Might that the federal government ought to urgently begin constructing new producing capability. He was referring to a brand new construct programme which has existed for no less than a decade.

The nation’s Built-in Useful resource Plan of 2019, a cupboard permitted doc, units out the timelines for decommissioning coal-fired energy stations and including 44GW of latest capability, together with 18GW of wind vitality and 8GW of photo voltaic (photovoltaic).

The nation is already manner behind on this programme, limping together with vintage energy stations and common energy cuts. Outages are an everyday incidence that are estimated to price the nation’s financial system about US$1 million an hour.

South Africans are all too conscious that there’s an vitality disaster. However in my work on vitality programs and transitions, I started to ask questions on the true nature and extent of it, and the way Eskom must be responding. My views are knowledgeable by Eskom’s information portal, a wealthy supply for insights on South Africa’s complicated electrical energy system. The portal is designed to share detailed data on electrical energy demand and provide. It has information on sources of vitality, ranges of storage and the extent of load shedding (energy cuts) on an hourly foundation.

I analysed the info for demand and provide for the primary half of Might 2022. It revealed three major developments: demand has fallen; energy cuts aren’t as huge as they could possibly be; and there’s scope to get extra out of the system utilizing renewable vitality sources.


The information reveals three key developments for the utility. Firstly, Eskom has dropped 6GW (about 21%) of demand inside a 12 months. It is because many non-paying prospects have been disconnected and several other giant shoppers, amongst them industrial customers like mines, are actually producing their very own energy.

The determine beneath compares two days of demand, one from June 2021 and the opposite from Might 2022. It displays precise demand, not Eskom’s provide. The distinction in demand is staggering. At this fee, South Africa merely gained’t want Eskom in 5 years.

Energy demand from June 2021 and from May 2022.

The second attention-grabbing discovering is that the amount of the ability cuts is small relative to the whole delivered vitality. Over the week 12-19 Might 2022, Eskom delivered 4,271 MWh of electrical energy and reduce 70 MWh, which is simply about 1.6% of the vitality generated, as proven within the picture beneath.

I’m making this level to point out that energy cuts might get a lot worse, until the rebuild programme begins quickly. One purpose that the ability cuts entice excessive media consideration is that buyers bear a disproportionate share of the vitality cuts relative to Eskom’s anchor prospects.

As an example, underneath degree 4 the place energy cuts can final for over 5 hours in a day, decrease finish customers have energy for under 67% of the day – which means 33% of their energy provide is reduce. However the complete vitality saving throughout the entire system is 10%. This implies that Eskom intentionally preserves provide for its anchor prospects – giant industrial customers and important providers – even in the course of the energy cuts.

The ultimate situation is that Eskom might get extra capability from its pumped hydro schemes. These schemes use extra energy at evening to pump water to excessive storage dams, from which the water is launched in the course of the day to satisfy the upper demand throughout daytime. Throughout the week 12-19 Might, capability utilisation of pumped hydro was solely about 38%.

If there had been ample energy in the course of the day to refill the reservoirs, Eskom might have added 1.7 GW of technology capability in the course of the early evenings, making full use of the pumped hydro capability and avoiding the necessity for load shedding. That daytime energy might have come from the renewable vitality programme, if the Division of Mineral Assets and Vitality had adopted the construct schedule.

Energy supplied by solar power facilities.


What are the choices for Eskom, other than beginning the construct programme?

To reply this query, we want some fundamentals on vitality programs. South Africa has a various vitality system. Electrical energy is obtained from coal (the biggest supply), wind, photo voltaic, hydro-electric, nuclear, diesel and imports.

Wind, photo voltaic and nuclear can’t be managed by the operator. Gasoline, hydro-electric, pumped hydro and diesel can. Coal is someplace in between the 2. Eskom’s position because the system operator is to mix all of the sources to match the demand.

The problem is that each demand and provide are variable, as proven for photo voltaic within the picture above. It’s akin to managing a catering occasion when you haven’t any thought what number of friends shall be there or what number of meals shall be delivered.

So, Eskom follows some easy guidelines (like different vitality system operators). The principles are first to make use of sources it can’t management (wind, photo voltaic and nuclear), then add the coal energy stations, after which prime up with hydro-electricity and pumped hydro. And if there may be nonetheless a shortfall, convey within the gasoline and diesel generators.

The obvious answer to Eskom’s quick downside is two-fold:

  • convey in additional renewable vitality, particularly wind and photo voltaic, of the impartial energy producers procurement programme.
  • make extra use of pumped hydro through the use of any sources of further low-cost energy, out there from impartial energy producers and elsewhere.

This method has already been outlined in my earlier publication overlaying the impartial energy producers procurement programme. I criticised the programme’s requirement of stand-alone energy producers and argued that interconnectedness of the producers would cut back price and enhance resilience within the system. It’s exactly this association which can present an answer to the short-term points inside the nationwide grid.

In the long term, the nation must correctly implement the 2019 Built-in Useful resource Plan, even when it clashes with the Division of Mineral Assets and Vitality’s coal, gasoline and oil pursuits. If the nation doesn’t begin the 2019 plan now, it would result in the demise of Eskom as an vitality producer as customers are compelled to show to different sources.


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