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SA electricity customers’ good response means no load shedding

Despite South Africa’s national electricity utility, Eskom having had to declare emergencies during the summer of 2013/14 no rotational load-shedding has occurred thanks to immediate demand reduction by all the utility’s customers and the utilisation of emergency reserves. Up to 1,000 MW of demand was reduced by Eskom’s industrial, commercial and residential customers during the emergency periods.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames says, “With the projected demand and current trends in planned maintenance and in plant performance, extensive use of open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) is anticipated resulting in limited operating reserves to deal with volatility in demand or generation performance. We call on all customers particularly the municipalities and the commercial sectors to manage and cut out all electricity wastage. The industrial and commercial sector can make significant contributions particularly in large office blocks and shopping centres. If this is done, it will ensure a stable power system and reduced costs.”

Public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, says, “The power system is currently tight and will remain like that until new generating capacity comes online. We therefore appeal for sustained savings throughout the day in order to reduce demand on the electricity grid. The less electricity you use, the more electricity will be available to go around.”

Dames says, “The plan will see us target 10% of our generation capacity on average through the year to do fixed planned maintenance, to address reliability and environmental issues at our power stations. In the short to medium-term, this will introduce higher risks to balancing supply and demand. In order to manage these risks, the country must continue to focus on additional supply options, energy efficiency and some form of an energy conservation scheme as a safety net.”

As in 2013, Eskom’s planned maintenance programme will continue throughout the year and this could potentially increase the level of constraint. Eskom says it remains critical for customers to maintain or achieve 10% savings especially in the commercial and residential sector. Much of the planned maintenance will be fixed, providing certainty, while outages will be done to ensure we can comply with environmental legislation. The average age of

Eskom’s power stations is 30 years and they therefore require higher levels of planned maintenance work. Maintenance will continue at high levels based on the generation sustainability strategy and to comply with environmental legislation. Planned outages vary between 5.0 GW to 6.0 GW up to April 2014, thereafter between 4.0 GW and 5.0 GW and by June will decrease to about 2.0 GW.

Unit 2 of the Koeberg nuclear power station will be shut down for planned refuelling at the end of March 2013. The energy imports from the Cahora Bassa hydro scheme are back at full capacity of 1,500 MW following the repair of towers that were damaged by the floods in Mozambique in 2012. In addition, approximately 2,100 MW of interruptible demand, for up to two hours a week, is contractually available from the aluminium smelters. About 320 MW of renewable energy from the independent power producers will be connected to the national grid in the first half of this year. An additional 320 MW will be connected in the first half of 2015.

Chairman of the Eskom Board, Zola Tsotsi outlines the importance of regional partnerships. “Eskom is a member of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and trades with neighbouring countries. Without supply to and from each other as SADC countries (i.e. imports and exports), our power systems and economies would be impacted negatively. However, supply contracts with our neighbours are designed in a manner that doesn’t prejudice our domestic customers. If there was a need to go into rotational load shedding, supply to these countries would be cut off.”

In addition to the generation build programme Eskom says that the strengthening of the network’s transmission power lines is also progressing well, with major sections of the network (Western Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng) having been completed.

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