Eskom should focus its resources and effort on maintaining its coal fleet and improving its performance, giving the utility the best chance of ending load-shedding.
Energy expert Adil Nchabeleng claimed on the SABC that “investment in renewable energy has actually disadvantaged South Africans”.
Nchabeleng said that Eskom had been too focused on renewable energy rather than fixing the electricity generation capacity the country already has.
The utility subsequently neglected the maintenance of the coal fleet, which resulted in its performance steadily deteriorating.
Eskom does not have sufficient resources to simultaneously maintain its coal fleet and invest in renewable energy, which requires an upgrade of its grid.
Nchabeleng argued that it would have been better for Eskom to invest in maintaining its coal fleet than building additional renewable capacity, as this would have a better chance of reducing the severity of load-shedding.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has previously said that an improvement of 1% in Energy Availability Factor (EAF) equates to 477MW or nearly half a stage of load-shedding.
Thus, to end load-shedding, it is more cost-effective to improve the performance of the coal fleet than build out new renewable capacity or purchase power from Independent Power Producers.
The transition away from coal occurred before the country developed enough renewable capacity to replace Eskom’s coal fleet, Nchabeleng said.
“South Africa cannot move away from coal yet. There are not enough sources of alternative power to justify a rapid transition.”
Furthermore, the introduction of the Just Energy Transition has resulted in policy confusion and no clear plan to end load-shedding.
South Africa currently has five energy-related policies that are being acted upon to varying degrees. They include:
- The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019
- The National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050)
- The Energy Action Plan (EAP)
- The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to global climate agreements
- The Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP)
In some capacity, all these policies mention transitioning from a coal-based economy to a renewables-based economy.
Nchabeleng’s comments echo those of former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga.
Maroga has previously said that Eskom was concentrating too much on Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and adding new generation capacity.
“The most important lever to end load-shedding is to have an improved and consistent performance of the coal fleet,” Maroga said.
However, Maroga urged the utility to keep businesses involved in building new generating capacity and helping Eskom maintain its coal fleet.
Eskom should take a balanced approach and not favour IPPs over its existing coal fleet as it has previously done.