Eskom needs an extra 6,000 megawatts of generating capacity to keep lights on

As the nation rolls into another day of loadshedding, Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer and the utility’s management detailed the company’s generation problems.

FILE: Eskom's Kusile power station. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom has laid out what it needs to keep the lights on and that is an need an additional 6,000 megawatts of generating capacity.

As the nation rolls into another day of load shedding, Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer and the utility’s management detailed the company’s generation problems on Monday.

Oberholzer also apologised to South African for the power disruptions.

Eskom management acknowledged on Monday that the generation part of the utility continues to be the cause of frustration.

Eskom has long struggled with maintenance and the latest round of rolling blackouts is testament to ageing infrastructure and a strained grid that isn’t robust enough to cope with the unexpected.

Oberholzer said to be in an ideal situation, Eskom required no less than 4,000 megawatts of additional capacity, which would also help the economy.

“So, it is important for all of us to understand that we need that at least 4,600 megawatts of additional capacity, specifically saying capacity in the country. But then again, I want to repeat on sound financial principles because Eskom at this point in time, we are shy and what we have available in terms of capacity to grow the needed economy of the country is really challenging.”

The age of power stations is also an issue; on average, they were built more than four decades ago but he said new units at power plants like Kusile would be operational in 2023.

At the same time, Eskom is warning consumers not to expect miraculous solutions from City Power providers.

At the weekend, the City of Johannesburg announced that its direct customers would not have to suffer through the latest round of rolling blackouts only to make a U-turn when Eskom intervened.

Five months ago, it became a little easier for cities to build their own power stations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a change to regulations, meaning power providers producing less than 100 megawatts power won’t need to go through the rigorous process of getting a licence from the energy regulator.

From now on, they’ll only need a permit to sell power back into the grid.

But Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha on Monday said making that a reality was still a while off.

“It’s only five months ago, so those investors would make plans are making plans and when they have started investing, they would connect to the power grid as required. They would only need authorisation from Eskom if they do that.”

Eskom is keen to get the process rolling as soon as possible because the independent power producer programme will help ease the load on the utility.

It’s already had many investors making enquiries about the process, but it reckons it will take months if not a year for that interest to translate into useable megawatts.

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