Government’s plan to end load-shedding failed

The government’s plan to end load-shedding by procuring privately generated electricity from the Independent Power Producers (IPP) Office is a failure and desperately needs fixing. 

This is feedback from energy analyst Professor Anton Eberhard, who heads UCT’s Power Futures Lab. 

Eberhard said in a social media post that South Africa’s IPP Office needs fixing as it has failed to procure electricity from private producers efficiently. 

Between 2011-14 they ran four auctions, delivering 6,328 MW. However, since 2020, a new team have run three more bid windows that, to date, have connected only 150 MW to the grid. 

Eberhard said that the government “cannot go on like this. We’re desperately short of power.”

The IPP Office is located in the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and was set up to procure privately produced electricity to rapidly increase the country’s generation capacity and ultimately end load-shedding. 

The team in charge of the office currently cannot do its job and has failed to add a single megawatt to the grid in the past five years, Eberhard told Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation’s Inclusive Growth Forum. 

“We have to admit that the IPP Office is a failure. A hard thing to say, I know, but let’s look at the facts,” Eberhard said. 

“Between 2011 and 2014, the IPP Office ran four auctions that delivered 6 300MW of solar and wind projects that are now all delivering electrons to the grid.”

Then, during the era of state capture, the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Project (REIPP) was plagued by delays from Eskom’s leadership. 

“The well-regarded and internationally lauded head of the IPP Office was terminated, and frankly, we now have a team there that has failed to deliver,” Eberhard said.

Eberhard also warned South Africans not to be fooled by Eskom’s recent performance improvements. 

Eskom’s performance has significantly improved over the past weeks, with its energy availability factor (EAF) breaching the 60% barrier for the first time in a year last week.

Eskom has also defied the usual declining trend in summer, allowing the utility to suspend load-shedding for the longest period in 2023 so far.

Over the last few weeks, Eskom’s EAF has significantly improved, reaching 60.46% in week 42 of 2023.

However, despite the improved performance of Eskom’s generation fleet, South Africa has been plunged into stage 2 load-shedding during the day and stage 3 load-shedding during the evening peak until further notice. 

In response to Eskom’s announcement of renewed load-shedding, energy expert Professor Anton Eberhard said that Eskom’s short-lived improvement should not fool South Africans. 

“As I warned at the Kgalema Kgalema Mothlanthe Foundations’s Inclusive Growth Forum, we should not be lulled by brief respites in power cuts and think Eskom has turned the corner,” Eberhard said in a social media post. 

“Their old power stations are failing at a rate faster than we are adding new capacity,” Eberhard continued. 

While recent gains had been made, “most commentators completely underestimate the complexity and gravity of the challenges at Eskom,” said Eberhard.


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