transmission lines

On Tuesday, Eskom announced that its improved generation performance and new build programme have delivered excess capacity for the country.

The power system remains stable due to Eskom’s rigorous plant maintenance, which has seen an improvement in plant availability, which has moved to 77.3% from 70.3% leading to 3,103MW being added to the national grid.

The improvement in generation plant availability has re-enabled Eskom to dispatch the least cost stations ahead of the more expensive stations.

According to the utility, projections for the year-end show that there will be a cost saving of ZAR238 million ($17.9 million).

New power capacity to drive economic growth

New capacity will fuel the growth of the South African economy, the parastatal believes.

“Since the build programme started in 2005, Eskom has added 8,030MW to the national grid and over the next six years a further 9,103MW capacity will be added from the Ingula pumped storage scheme, which will be fully commissioned later this year. Medupi will be fully commissioned in 2020, and Kusile in 2022,” Eskom said in a statement.

The power company currently has a surplus of 5,600MW at peak, due to improved plant performance and new additional capacity that can meet any increase in demand until 2021.

Eskom Chairman Baldwin Ngubeni said: “Today’s system status update follows on the backdrop of positive interim results for Eskom, but also follows the departure of Brian Molefe – an extraordinary leader whose legacy will be that of turning Eskom around.

“Today’s system status update is a reflection of the vision, dedication and hard work of thousands of men and women at Eskom and its Interim Group Chief Executive, Matshela Koko.

“Through their remarkable tenacity and capabilities, the company has turned things around to deliver solid and sustainable financial and operational performance, positively impacting the South African economy. Today, I can call on all customers to optimise on this surplus supply.”

Koko said: “Surplus capacity on average every day during the peak for this financial year is the size of Matla Power Station (3,600MW), this is excluding 2,000MW operational reserve. Going forward, Eskom will continue to focus its efforts on increasing electricity demand and ensuring sustainable revenue collection.”

Electrification on the high

According to Koko, the utility has connected 162,104 new customers to the grid in the past nine months.  He added that 150,747 of these customers are already using electricity.

“We hope to electrify all households in South Africa in the next two years,” he said.

Eskom noted that the decreased need for open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) due to improved generation availability, has also played a part in added capacity.

The OCGT load factor for the second quarter of the financial year was 0.06% and for the third quarter, 0.11%. “We expect minimal use of Eskom OCGTs to manage the system for the rest of the financial year,” Koko said.

The Distribution division continues to exhibit sound technical performance and has exceeded the targeted installation for smart meters for the third quarter, with actuals of 17,561 installations versus a target of 12,000 installations.

Challenges and the way forward

Some of the key challenges facing the distribution industry are huge under-investment in electricity infrastructure, high energy losses as a result of inadequate revenue management systems and some utilities consistently defaulting on their negotiated payment arrangements because of systemic failures.

“The effects of these shortcomings are detrimental to the economic growth of the country and addressing these challenges is key to ensuring future financial sustainability. We wish to acknowledge cooperation with Premiers and MEC’s in helping Eskom in finding lasting solutions to the Distribution challenges,”Koko said.

“Since the start of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) process in November 2016, Eskom has managed to collect R979 million from the municipalities. This is testament of the ability of South Africans to work together during tough times,” he said.

The Transmission division has had zero major incidents in terms of system performance. There were high levels of maintenance execution with 98.8% of planned work executed. There has also been excellent line fault performance achieved year-to-date.

Koko concluded: “Eskom’s power system has progressed to a position of surplus capacity, which will positively impact the SA economy. The availability of excess capacity allows Eskom to meet demand more cheaply than through the purchases of renewable energy.

“As a priority, both domestic and export sales must be further increased. Eskom will continue to focus efforts on the increasing growth in demand in electricity and ensuring sustainable revenue collection.”