South Africa

More IPPs coming online could lead to a death spiral for Eskom – energy expert

Bruce Whitfield interviews Professor Sampson Mamphweli, Director of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University.

– Have you wondered how many days of load shedding we've had so far this year? Officially, it stands at 100 days out of 257.

– Just how broken is Eskom and what is its future?

– The power utility needs to look very carefully at any investment it might make in generation looking ahead says energy expert Prof. Sampson Mamphweli.

Officially, we've had 100 days of load shedding this year.

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We're on Day 257, so that translates into South Africa being affected by blackouts for more than a third of 2022 (over 38%).

If you break it down at a rate of for example six hours a day, says Bruce Whitfield, we've all been effectively load shed for 10% of the year so far.

This week, Eskom ramped up power cuts to Stage 4 due to a "sudden outage" of three Kendal power station units.

RELATED: 'Sudden' outage at Kendal power station forces Eskom to ramp up power cuts

Just how broken is our power utility and what is its future?

Whitfield turns to an expert – Professor Sampson Mamphweli, who is the Director of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University.

The situation has been getting worse and worse says Prof. Mamphweli because of those factors we know well by now, like an ageing coal fleet – "Some of the parts on this old fleet have become obsolete, so basically you can't even find replacements…"

RELATED: 'Situation much worse than Eskom is telling us – and costs are out of control'

Eskom's own forecasts for the months ahead point to a possibly sustained higher level of power cuts.

For more detail, read "Load shedding – up to Stage 4 – expected in summer, Eskom says".

The real outlook would basically be that we can have load shedding at any point in time, on any day… Eskom looks at their own maintenance plan, the breakdowns in the past and things like that, and then they run a model… but they will never ever get it accurate because they're dealing with a system that breaks down without any warning.

Prof. Sampson Mamphweli, Director – Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, SU

Professor Sampson believes that the opening up of the electricity supply market could lead to a death spiral for the power utility.

The President's plan has basically opened the energy or electricity supply market… and they're now working on the Revised Integrated Plan… Eskom has got a straightforward procedure so it is now becoming easier for people to buy electricity from IPPs, and to produce their own electricity…

Prof. Sampson Mamphweli, Director – Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, SU

While that's a good thing, it could lead to a death spiral for Eskom because all the people and industries doing this are those who could afford to pay for the electricity, so it'll be left with customers who can't afford high electricity prices and those who are basically not paying.

Prof. Sampson Mamphweli, Director – Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, SU

He says Eskom needs to look closely at the role it should play in this space going forward.

"In my view, Eskom should play a minimum role in terms of generation, and concentrate on transmission because they don't have competition there."

Whatever investment the power utility might make in generation, may no longer be a sound or feasible investment, he says.

Scroll up to listen to the interview

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : More IPPs coming online could lead to a death spiral for Eskom – energy expert

Artmotion S.Africa

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