Blackouts: Eskom struggle still continues

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Written By Maya Cantina
Eskom has made great strides, according to experts, who say the fact that unit 5 at Eskom’s problematic Kusile power station, which was affected by a fire in 2022, synchronised to the power grid for the first time on Sunday, and was excellent news for South Africans as they gear up for a possibly load shedding-free winter. While it is still in the testing stage and may be taken offline frequently during this period, independent energy analyst Lungile Mashele said it meant that there would be additional capacity. But, during this time, “they may not run it at full capacity…

Eskom has made great strides, according to experts, who say the fact that unit 5 at Eskom’s problematic Kusile power station, which was affected by a fire in 2022, synchronised to the power grid for the first time on Sunday, and was excellent news for South Africans as they gear up for a possibly load shedding-free winter.

While it is still in the testing stage and may be taken offline frequently during this period, independent energy analyst Lungile Mashele said it meant that there would be additional capacity.

But, during this time, “they may not run it at full capacity because it is still in the testing stage”.

Load shedding implemented

Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from 5am until 4pm today and, thereafter, stage 3 load shedding at 5am tomorrow due to the current intensified maintenance aimed at improving the fleet performance – but the successful synchronisation of unit 5 at Kusile was still a major milestone, Mashele said.

“We had a setback of three generating units (2 148MW) not coming back online as anticipated. This, coupled with a loss of six generating units (3 113MW), and projected increase in electricity demand requires stage 2 load shedding to be implemented from 5am on Tuesday until 4pm,” the power utility said.

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“Followed by stage 3 load shedding until 5am on Wednesday. This pattern of stage 2 load shedding in the morning and stage 3 load shedding in the evening will be repeated daily until further notice.”

Eskom said it would monitor the power system and communicate any changes.

“Unplanned outages are currently at 16 231MW of generating capacity, while the capacity out of service for planned maintenance is 8 451MW,” Eskom said.

“Eskom teams are working tirelessly to ensure that 4 921MW of generating capacity is returned to service before the end of the week. Eskom’s load forecast for the evening peak demand for Tuesday is 23 011MW.”

Unit would contribute an additional 800MW to the grid

Eskom’s group executive for generation Bheki Nxumalo said the unit would contribute an additional 800MW to the grid, which was never part of the Eskom’s grid capacity.

ALSO READ: Eskom’s Kusile fire-ravaged Unit 5 syncs to grid for first time

“It will supply electricity intermittently during the testing and optimisation phase over the next six months before being transferred into commercial operation and the capacity officially added to the Eskom fleet,” Nxumalo added.

Eskom’s acting group chief executive, Calib Cassim, said this was a positive trajectory of Eskom’s generation recovery plan.

“The anticipated Kusile unit 5 brings hope as it helps power the nation and its economy,” he said.

“There is enormous effort made to continue the remarkable progress on the new build programme and the generation recovery plan.”

Mashele previously told The Citizen load shedding was a result of poor plant performance, increased industrial demand leading up to winter, a lack of quality maintenance, the loss of three units at Kusile and the delay in returning to service unit 1 at Koeberg.

ALSO READ: Koeberg nuclear power station unit 1 to undergo final load rejection test

“So, this is actually excellent news. It does, however, mean that in June, during winter, it will be available at full capacity. This gives us an extra 800MW in capacity and reduces load shedding significantly,” she said.

“One needs to take this news along with the return of the other three Kusile units to recognise that significant strides have been made at Kusile, which is great news for Eskom and the country.”

‘We should not forget that it is still not in commercial operation’

In a tweet on X, energy analyst Chris Yelland, MD of EE Business Intelligence, said in the midst of celebrations around the unit finally synchronising to the grid, “we should not forget that it is still not in commercial operation, with two to three times cost capital cost overrun, eight years late”.

“With unit 6 still not synchronised to the grid, Kusile is responsible for several stages of load shedding for years,” he said on the social media platform.

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