Government does not understand Eskom crisis – analyst

The South African government seems unable to grasp the full extent of the electricity crisis and the urgency required to resolve it. 

Energy analyst Clyde Mallinson told Newzroom Afrika that “the government still seems to be grappling with understanding the level of the crisis and the emergency.”. 

Mallinson praised the performance of Eskom’s coal fleet, saying that he has been pleasantly surprised with improvements to the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of the utility’s coal-fired power plants. 

For the first time this year, it appears that Eskom is producing enough electricity to meet demand for most of the day and is only failing to meet peak demand in the evenings. 

This is expected as coal power stations tend to perform better in winter as the cooler conditions make their cooling systems much more efficient. 

However, Mallinson said that it seems the government does not understand the crisis, as there has been no urgency in implementing the Energy Action Plan (EAP).

In the four years since South Africa first experienced stage 6 load-shedding, not a single KWh of government-procured electricity has been commissioned. 

The government seemingly does not understand the severity of the situation South Africa is in concerning its electricity shortage. 

Clyde Mallinson
Energy analyst Clyde Mallinson

Government investment in renewable energy has stagnated, and the private sector has picked up the slack. Data collected by PwC supports this.

Over the last three years, 4,550MW of private solar generation capacity has been added to the grid. It is expected to increase to 6,850MW by the end of 2023.

Private-sector renewable generation will be almost on par with the total capacity of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP).

It indicates that, although quietly, privatisation is occurring in South Africa’s electricity supply.

However, there are still significant hurdles to feeding private renewable energy into the grid, and South Africa will require coal-fired power for the foreseeable future.

Solar generation will make a difference, but it is “not going to solve our problems”, according to PwC. It has to be combined with other sources of generating electricity.

Mallinson said that the contributions of rooftop solar from households and businesses have been underestimated. 

It is estimated that between 2,000MW and 4,000MW of rooftop solar has been installed, with nearly 1,000MW installed in the first quarter of 2023 alone. 

Imports of solar panels reached an all-time high of R3.6 billion in South Africa in the first quarter of 2023, three times higher than the previous quarter. 

The value of imports in the first three months of 2023 is almost as much as the entire value imported in 2022, which was R5.6 billion. 

Since 2010, South Africa has imported R35 billion worth of solar panels.

Source: PwC


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