Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Eskom does not believe that SA should rely too heavily on external sources for its electricity supply, the utility’s  spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said on Thursday.

He could not comment specifically on Eskom’s formal submission to the energy department on the draft integrated resource plan 2018 (IRP) — reported on by Fin24 — as this is now in the hands of the department.

However, he emphasised that Eskom would not support a heavy dependence on imports of gas from Mozambique, for example, or on hydro-electric power from the Grand Inga project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the country’s electricity supply.

The IRP sets out the path for future electricity generation based on projected demand and the percentages of total supply that should be derived from different energy sources.

Phasiwe said SA has to be very cautious about depending too much on imports from neighbouring countries “because you never know what can happen. If you are going to depend on another country for your security of energy supply, you are asking for trouble”. For example, when SA’s power system was constrained, its neighbours, such as Botswana and Zimbabwe, which depend on South African electricity supply, also suffered  and also had to implement load-shedding.

Phasiwe noted that plans for the Grand Inga hydro-electric project have been on the drawing board for a long time and there is no certainty as to when it will be finished. The electricity would also have to be transmitted through very volatile areas.

Eskom also raised questions and concerns about the project, particularly with regard to who is to pay for the 5,000km transmission lines from the DRC to the border. Eskom doubts the project will be developed in the 2030 timeframe of the IRP.

Fin24 reported that Eskom stated in its report to the department of energy on the draft IRP 2018 that it believed the forecasts for future electricity demand are too high and could result in too much new power being commissioned. Eskom’s electricity sales are decreasing and its demand forecast is 52Gw by 2050, compared to the 58Gw forecast in the IRP.

According to the Fin24 report, Eskom also raised serious concerns about the amount of gas envisaged in the IRP, both because SA lacks gas infrastructure and because of the effect that fluctuations in the gas price could have on the country’s electricity price.

“The use of gas will expose the cost of the system to the exchange rate and market price risks, where the primary fuel price and production are out of our hands,” Eskom said.

Eskom corrected the decommissioning dates in the IRP for some of its ageing coal plants, and said it has brought them forward:  Komati power station will be shut down between 2018 and 2021; Grootvlei between 2018 and 2020; Hendrina between 2018 and 2022; and Arnot between 2021 and 2029.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za