10 August 2017

South Africa: Eskom Operates a Resilient Power System

Eskom now operates a resilient power system with excess capacity positioning it to support South Africa's economic recovery, says the power utility's interim Group Chief Executive Johnny Dladla.

"Whereas security of power supply was the key concern two years ago, the focus has now shifted to managing surplus capacity," said Dladla on Thursday.

Due to additional new generating capacity added from the Medupi, Ingula and Kusile power stations and the utility's rigorous fleet maintenance programme, plant availability had improved from 69.9% in 2015 to 77.3% at the end of March this year.

The power utility said all four units at the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme located on the cross-border of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, with a total installed capacity of 1 332MW, are now in commercial operation while Unit 5 of the Medupi Power Station located in Limpopo was synchronised on 8 September 2016. Medupi's Unit 4 was also synchronised on 31 May 2017.

The unit, with installed capacity of 794MW, achieved commercial operation on 3 April 2017, after completing performance, reliability and compliance tests. Commercial operation is when the construction and optimisation of the unit is complete.

Synchronisation is when the generator in the unit is connected into the power grid so that it is aligned with all other generators on the national grid. It will then start to generate and deliver electricity to the grid over several months.

After the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 1 on 26 December 2016, the unit achieved full load during March 2017, while testing continues. The project is working towards commercial operation of the unit.

The green-fields coal-fired Kusile is located in the Nkangala District of Mpumalanga.

"Eskom is ideally positioned to support the economic recovery of South Africa and enable industrial growth across Southern Africa. We will build on the momentum of our performance and efficiency improvements over the recent years and become a more customer-centric organisation that partners with key sectors to increase industrial activity, electricity consumption and job creation," said Dladla.

Meanwhile, the power utility said adherence to a strict plant maintenance programme has also resulted in a drastic reduction in unplanned maintenance and the number of breakdowns over the past two years.

"In terms of our existing Generation Sustainability Strategy, we aim to achieve 80% plant availability, 10% planned maintenance and 10% unplanned maintenance by 2020," said Dladla.

To manage the surplus capacity Eskom has adopted an aggressive sales volume growth to support economic growth by encouraging an annual growth of 2.1% in local demand and 8% in export sales over the next five years.

"We set out with the aim of stabilising and re-energising our business for longer-term sustainability and growth, by setting aggressive goals for progress. We shall continue with our rigorous programme of planned maintenance, to ensure security of power supply, while also minimising the use of open cycle gas turbines. We are already reaping the rewards."

Meanwhile, a total of 585.4km transmission lines were constructed during the year. Eskom also commissioned 2 300MVA transmission transformer capacity, both exceeding the year-end target. The 765kV network to the Western Cape was completed, signifying a significant milestone towards improving grid stability.

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