Eskom load-shedding surprise

Staff Writer1 July 2024

Eskom load-shedding surprise


Eskom’s latest performance data shows it has achieved what many people said was impossible: improving its reliability and suspending load-shedding.

When former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter left the power utility in February 2023, load-shedding had become a daily occurrence where only the stage was unknown.

Stage 6 power cuts had become commonplace, and many businesses and experts warned about a total grid collapse.

Eskom grappled with rampant corruption and mismanagement, a rapidly declining energy availability factor (EAF), and a leadership crisis.

South Africans braced for stage 8 and even stage 10 load-shedding, without any prospect of things improving in the near future.

Fast forward fourteen months, and the situation has changed dramatically. Eskom suspended load-shedding for three months, and there are big improvements in the power utility’s EAF.

Many people, including De Ruyter, could not believe it was possible. He claimed that Eskom was not fixable in its current form.

He added that the load-shedding reprieve was down to burning diesel. “If the lights are on, well done. However, they are on because we are pouring money into diesel at a rate of knots.”

This is not true. Open-cycle gas turbine (OCGT) usage has been much lower over the last few months than in 2023 and 2022.

There are two reasons why load-shedding has been suspended — lower demand and a much better performance by Eskom.

Eskom system operator head Isabel Fick said increased photovoltaic solar power helped Eskom cut load-shedding.

2,800 MW of photovoltaic solar is directly connected to the Eskom grid, with other “behind-the-meter” solar installations of around 5,440 MW.

These solar installations lower daytime electricity demand, allowing Eskom to replenish its pumped storage capacity during the day rather than at night.

Eskom can use this emergency generation capacity over the evening peak when solar energy is unavailable.

The other reason is Eskom’s improved performance resulting from its extensive maintenance plan, which was approved in March 2023.

This Generation Operational Recovery Plan was implemented to improve the reliability of the Eskom generation fleet and limit load-shedding this winter.

Mteto Nyati, Eskom chairman

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati explained that they partnered with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for maintenance.

The OEMs have deep knowledge and expertise about Eskom’s power plant generation equipment, significantly improving the work quality.

Previously, maintenance was done by people with limited or no understanding of the equipment at the plants.

The results were exceptional and enhanced the reliability and performance of the Eskom coal generation fleet.

On Friday, 28 Jule 2024, Eskom announced that it had suspended load-shedding for 93 days. It is the longest period since October 2021.

“Our operational efficiency continues to exceed expectations, with unplanned outages averaging 12,000MW, well below the winter forecast,” it said.

The Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) has decreased to 27.1% between 1 April 2024 and 27 June 2024. It is down from 35.1% in the corresponding period last year.

This reduction in UCLF represents an 8.0% improvement in the current financial year compared to the previous year.

Eskom has also continued doing planned maintenance of 5,566MW, which aligns with its winter maintenance strategy.

Due to increased reliability, the energy availability factor (EAF) increased to 61.3% between 1 April 2024 and 27 June 2024.

This is a significant 7% improvement compared to the same period last year when the EAF was 54.3%.

The weekly EAF has moved from 57.0% at the beginning of the financial year to 63.52% from 24 June to 27 June 2024.

“The EAF improvement is primarily due to a drop in the unplanned outages of the generation units, which averaged 11,793MW during the past seven days,” Eskom said.

Eskom continues to strategically use peaking stations, including the open-cycle gas turbines, to meet the heightened demand.

However, Eskom’s diesel consumption has stayed under the projected figures for this winter and is considerably lower than the previous year’s usage.

“Eskom’s diesel usage remains below its published winter forecast and year-to-date budget,” it said.

OCGT usage has also remained significantly lower than in the past two years. The OCGT load factor for 1 April to 27 June 2024 is at 6.30% compared to last year’s 21.29%.

Eskom said its winter forecast, published on 26 April 2024, anticipated a likely scenario of unplanned outages at 15,500MW and load shedding limited to Stage 2. This remains in force.

Eskom load-shedding in 2024 versus 2023