Efforts to liberalize the South African power market were welcomed by Eskom on Wednesday.
The company said the move will give it more room to invest in maintaining its fleet of outdated and unreliable coal-fired generators.
“Eskom is placing significant emphasis on recovering its energy availability factor (EAF) at especially its coal plants, where performance has been disappointing,” reads a statement from the utility.
“The measures announced by the president will allow Eskom to intensify its maintenance efforts to drive improvements in the EAF.”
The EAF, which essentially displays the productivity of Eskom’s generation plant, has been declining for years, which has contributed to the increase in load shedding’s intensity. In 2018, its coal fleet’s EAF was 71.9 percent. In 2019, 66.9 percent; in 2020, 65 percent; and in 2021, 61.8 percent, according to techcentral.co.za. In 2022, which is on course to have the worst load shedding in South Africa’s history, there hasn’t been much improvement.
On Monday, President Ramaphosa outlined significant changes to the energy industry, including the elimination of license for private power plants larger than 100MW. In addition, he promised to increase the utility’s hiring of experienced staff and permit Eskom to purchase surplus electricity from private generators.
The government will permit Eskom to purchase surplus energy from current IPPs and permit it to purchase energy from businesses who produce their own electricity – such mines or industrial operations – in a regular offer in order to enhance energy supply in the short term. Eskom approached the government with this demand as early as January.
Additionally, Eskom will be permitted to “procure instantly accessible power production alternatives on an emergency basis for two to three years, while maintaining transparency and cost-effectiveness.” This would open the door for Eskom to work with gas-fired powerships, providing that environmental regulations wouldn’t prevent their deployment as of now.