Eskom Achieves Highest Energy Availability Since 2021 Ahead of Winter

South African Power Utility Reports Significant Progress, Reducing Loadshedding Risks as Cold Season Approaches

by Adenike Adeodun

As South Africa gears up for the winter season, its national power utility, Eskom, has reported a significant improvement in its Energy Availability Factor (EAF), reaching nearly 71%, a level not seen since August 2021. This announcement, made by Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity, marks a pivotal moment in the country’s ongoing struggle with energy stability.

During a media briefing on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan, Minister Ramokgopa highlighted that Eskom’s EAF has surged from around 61% just weeks prior to a commendable 70.78%. This increase signifies a critical step forward in stabilizing the national grid and potentially ending the disruptive load-shedding practices that have hampered South Africa’s economic growth.

Vally Padayachee, a former executive manager at Eskom and City Power, expressed optimism about the sustained improvement. “For us to get to 71% from, I think, 61% about a week [or] two weeks ago shows some significant improvement,” Padayachee remarked, adding that if these numbers hold, it could mean the perpetual cessation of load-shedding.

The recent successes in boosting energy availability are attributed to several strategic measures implemented under Minister Ramokgopa’s oversight. These include the completion of extensive maintenance across Eskom’s power stations, the stabilization of the management team, and the introduction of performance-related incentive bonuses. Additionally, specific attention was given to critical stations requiring urgent maintenance, further aiding the recovery process.

In December 2023, Eskom embarked on its most aggressive maintenance schedule in three years, taking 18% of its total generating capacity offline for planned maintenance. The return of these units has been a major factor in the improved EAF figures, demonstrating the efficacy of the maintenance-led recovery plan.

Another notable achievement for Eskom has been the reduction in its reliance on diesel-powered Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs). Minister Ramokgopa clarified misconceptions about Eskom’s use of diesel, stating, “What anchors this recovery is the performance of these coal-fired power stations.” The load factor for OCGT has dramatically decreased from 19.13% to 6.8%, illustrating a shift towards more sustainable and cost-effective power generation.

Despite these improvements, the Electricity Minister emphasized that there is still considerable work to be done. The goal is to elevate all power stations to the performance levels of top performers like Kusile, Lethabo, Majuba, and Medupi. “We need to ensure that we bring other power stations to the levels of [best performers] so that across the entire fleet when you use station by station, we should be above 70%,” Ramokgopa stated.

As Eskom continues its journey toward energy stability, the focus remains on maintaining the momentum of recent gains while addressing the areas that still require improvement. The minister’s cautious optimism reflects a recognition of the challenges ahead but also a confidence in the path Eskom is on. With a more stable energy supply, South Africa hopes to reduce the economic disruptions caused by power shortages and move towards a more reliable and efficient power generation system.

While Eskom’s current achievements in energy availability are noteworthy, the journey towards full energy security continues. The utility’s ability to maintain and build on this progress will be crucial for South Africa’s economic stability and development, especially as the nation heads into the colder months, which traditionally place a higher demand on the power grid.

Source: ESI Africa

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