Load-shedding expected to ease by midweek: Ramokgopa

Boiler tube leaks partly to blame for descent into stage 6 load-shedding

11 February 2024 - 11:06 By TIMESLIVE
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Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. File photo.
Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda/Business Day

Load-shedding stages are expected to ease during the week as more generation units return to service, electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said on Sunday.

Ramokgopa said that boiler tube leaks took nine generating units offline at the end of the week, plunging the country into stage 6 load-shedding again.

This was in addition to a significant number of units down or preventive maintenance — which Eskom knew posed an inherent risk should there be unexpected breakdowns — and underperforming renewable energy supply.

“The inherent risk materialised. We can account for the sources of failure, we know what the issues were — boiler tube leaks. Eskom management has taken a decision. Having identified boiler tube leaks as a major area of concern that undermines the availability of units, they are working directly with the original equipment manufacturers,” he said.

He said boiler tube leaks took out 4,400MW at nine generating units.

However, these units were being returned to service and he expected some reprieve for customers towards the middle of the week when load-shedding was expected to be reduced to stage 4 or lower.

“To fix this grid we need to be very meticulous ... there are going to be setbacks. 

“By Tuesday we will see a significant reduction going back to those levels 4, 3, 2 and 1 and also periodically not having load-shedding, starting Wednesday going forward. Of course there could be a situation where during that period we go a stage lower just to manage the reserves ... It's a consideration that would be made but for purposes of getting to those levels of stage 4 and lower, we are projecting that we will get that by Wednesday.”

The move to stage 6 at midnight on Friday came a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa told South Africans in his state of the nation address “the worst is behind us and the end of load-shedding is finally in reach”, reported the Sunday Times.

Eskom confirmed on Sunday load-shedding would drop from noon to level 5.

The power utility said over the past 48 hours it had replenished its pumped storage dam levels and returned some generation units to service. 

Sunday's unplanned outages added up to 17,595MW of generating capacity while an additional 6,885MW of capacity was down for planned maintenance. 

“Eskom power station general managers and their teams continue to work diligently to ensure that a total of 3,200MW is returned to service by Wednesday evening. Eskom’s evening peak demand tonight [Sunday] is 25,290MW,” it said.

Ramokgopa said a cautious approach was being taken to return affected units to the grid.

“One of the things we emphasise when we engage with the team at Eskom is that we should not place a single life at risk in our endeavour to return the units quicker, we must do everything right, even if it means that the intensity of load-shedding will be above the summer plan but it's important that we do things right.”


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