Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Eskom plans to spend R174.5bn on its transmission and distribution network over the next 10 years, largely to improve reliability and accommodate new generation capacity, Eskom’s senior manager for infrastructure investment planning Leslie Naidoo said on Thursday.

He was presenting the utility’s transmission development plan (TDP) to 2027 to give stakeholders an opportunity to give input, which is a requirement of Eskom’s transmission licence.

The integration of renewable energy independent power producer (REIPP) projects, as well as the government’s decision to go ahead with the procurement of 9,600 megawatts (MW) of new nuclear power, in the teeth of public disapproval, puts pressure on existing transmission lines and substations.

Earlier this week the Department of Environmental Affairs gave Eskom approval to proceed with an environmental impact assessment into Duynefontein as the site for SA’s second nuclear power plant, close to the older nuclear power plant, Koeberg.

Only three days after his appointment as energy minister, David Mahlobo told the 44th Policy Group Meeting of the Generation IV International Forum in Cape Town the key advantage of nuclear power for SA was its cost competitiveness.

"Generation III nuclear power plants remain a good economic choice for SA," Mahlobo said. "Generation IV nuclear power plants promise improved economics and SA looks forward to deploying such advanced energy systems."

Eskom’s recently completed 765 kilovolt (kV) line from the Western Cape to the Highveld will allow the power from Duynefontein to be exported to the rest of the country, Thava Govender, Eskom’s group executive for transmission, said.

Naidoo said the R174bn budget included R119bn for capital projects which would add about 6,700km of high voltage lines and 41,000 megavolt ampere (MVA) of transformation capacity.

About R20bn would be spent in the first three years for projects already in the execution phase, of which R15bn was already funded.

He said key risks were Eskom’s liquidity, uncertainties over the REIPP programme and the length of time it takes Eskom to obtain land rights and servitudes.

Govender said 61 REIPPs producing 3,520MW had been connected to the grid. Eskom had committed capital to link all REIPPs up to bid window 4B and small projects into the grid.

Ronald Marais, senior manager of strategic grid planning, said there were many uncertainties in the 10-year plan, which was still guided by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 since the IRP 2016 was still in draft form. The IRP 2010’s load forecasts had proved over-optimistic and demand projections had to be adjusted downwards, but demand had improved in the past year.

Although most of SA’s power generation has traditionally come from the coal-fired plants in Mpumalanga, Marais said by 2027 there would be substantially more power generated from the south of the country from wind, solar, gas and nuclear power.

Presentations from provincial chief planners showed that Eskom was projecting growth in demand from Gauteng of about 3% a year over the next 10 years as well as strong growth from the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. Demand growth from the Northern Cape would be driven largely by the mining industry, and from the Eastern Cape by its two industrial development zones.

Power generation in the Eastern Cape is also projected to grow substantially over the next decade, making the province a net power exporter, as Eskom is planning for a nuclear power station at Thyspunt and generation from gas and renewables.

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