Eskom power station. Picture: REUTERS
Eskom power station. Picture: REUTERS

As Eskom continues to implement rolling power cuts, the state is on the hunt for emergency measures that will fill SA’s immediate power supply gap.

“Due to challenges with Eskom plant performance, there is an immediate supply and demand gap that needs to be addressed The current load-shedding is testimony to this,” mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said on Friday. 

“We urgently need to secure additional capacity in order to increase our reserve margins. The department will shortly issue a request for information regarding supply- and demand-side options available that can be brought online in the shortest possible time at reasonable cost.”

The minister was briefing the media on the long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan 2019 — a master plan for SA’s energy future to 2030, which was passed by the Cabinet on Thursday and gazetted on Friday. The plan provides for additional power-generating capacity, 1,500MW of which will come from coal, 2,500MW from hydro, 6,000MW from solar PV, 14,400MW from wind, 2,088MW from storage and 3,000MW from gas.

The briefing came on the third day of stage 2 load-shedding as a raft of unplanned outages at Eskom power stations and a snapped coal conveyor belt constrained SA’s power supply.

Deputy director-general Jacob Mbele said the department had identified a gap in energy supply over the next four years based on energy availability factor numbers sourced from Eskom.

The energy availability factor is the portion of Eskom’s installed power generation capacity that is actually available and dispatchable. It has been at about 67% in the year to date, but Eskom is targetting getting it to 85% or more.

“So to avoid utilisation of costly diesel power plants [which guzzle 14 litres of diesel a second] we have crafted an RFI that we want to issue to the market,” Mbele said. “That RFI will give us the information about other alternative options.”

If it comes in cheaper than the diesel option, such an option could even be a “power ship” — a privately owned and operated floating power station.

However, Mbele said this was simply one of the options and the RFI would help the state to understand what other options were available to it.

Eskom briefed the media about the resumption of rotational power cuts on Thursday evening and noted that, although SA has 47,000MW of installed power generation capacity and 30,000 MW of demand, planned and unplanned outages and unreliable power generation meant often more than 15,000MW were unavailable, cutting into an already thin reserve margin of 2,000MW. This leaves very little room for Eskom to do maintenance on its ageing and unreliable fleet of power stations.

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