South Africa: National Power Grid Stabilization Delayed, Load Shedding to Extend into Mid-2024

South Africa: National Power Grid Stabilization Delayed, Load Shedding to Extend into Mid-2024

As the nation’s power crisis looms, it is now apparent that the goal of stabilizing the national electricity grid by the end of the year will not be met. The situation is such that load shedding, a necessary albeit inconvenient measure to prevent a complete system failure, is expected to persist into the mid of the coming year, 2024.

A significant part of the problem lies in the Kusile Power Station. Following the damage to the flue gas duct of Unit 1 in October last year, plans were made to erect new temporary chimneys. Unfortunately, as it stands, the construction of these chimneys has not commenced. These chimneys are intended as an interim solution, designed to replace the environmentally friendly chimney that was originally approved under the plant’s license requirements. This original design aimed to effectively filter large volumes of sulfur before the plant emitted smoke into the atmosphere.

During a recent visit to the Kusile Power Station in Mpumalanga, Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa disclosed this information. He also shed light on the current condition of the power station and its contribution to the national power grid instability. Due to various factors, the power station has lost four of its units, leading to a substantial reduction of 3,200 MW in the grid’s power supply.

With an investment of R166 billion, the station was instrumental in three stages of load shedding. The situation might see some improvement by December when three more units are expected to regain their functionality, bringing the station back to full capacity by February 2024. However, Ramokgopa cautioned that Kusile wouldn’t be back at full capacity until April 2024.

“Kusile is particularly important because, as you know, there are three units that went offline—Units 1, 2, and 3. There is also Unit 5 that is currently not operational,” stated Ramokgopa. He further explained, “If those units were operating today, each could be generating about 800 MW, which would contribute about 3,200 MW in total. Essentially, this equates to three stages of load shedding.”

In addition to the issues at Kusile, South Africa’s electricity provider Eskom is also dealing with challenges at its Koeberg nuclear power station. The power utility has scheduled a 200-day shutdown for one of the reactors at Koeberg. This shutdown, intended for maintenance, refueling, and refurbishment, forms part of the plans to extend the reactor’s lifespan by another 20 years.

Interestingly, this shutdown coincides with the expiration of Koeberg’s operating license on 21 July 2024. The shutdown of Unit 1 is planned for 24 July 2024, with its expected return to the grid in February 2025. Given that each unit at Koeberg generates 970 MW, the 200-day shutdown will effectively result in a loss of 970 MW to the national grid.

All these developments provide a sobering reality about the status of the nation’s electricity supply. As the authorities scramble to get the national power grid situation under control, the burden of load shedding, for the time being, is a reality that households and industries across the nation must contend with.

Leave a reply