Energize Inbox, June 2018

Our winning letter

re: Debate on the restructuring of Eskom

Dear Editor

I believe Eskom should be totally restructured, firstly by appointing only professional business people to the board, including non-executive directors, who have all worked in large, profitable, private multinational corporations preferably in the international electrical engineering field.

They must be given a free hand to restructure the entire organisation, close down or privatise or sell all non-core business units and departments, such as Rotek, TAP, Uganda, R&D (which is already done at other institutions and universities worldwide).

This should include privatising or selling-off all power generating stations and reduce the workforce by half – which was determined by international studies and comparisons with similar electricity undertakings to be the number of excess staff at Eskom.  Furthermore, since South Africa is signatory to COP21, etc., all old coal power stations should be closed down within a year, and coal contracts closed or transferred to other coal-fired power stations, where shortages may occur.

Coal contracts which are not profitable or where coal is sub-standard must be cancelled. Tegeta must be made to pay back the Capex money it received from Eskom. The REIPPP Programme should be re-commenced immediately by the Department of Energy to replace these together with storage to shift the energy supply to morning and afternoon peak periods.  All coal-fired power stations should pay the proposed carbon tax since they are the primary source of carbon emissions; not the users of the electricity.

This will make the renewable sources of electric energy more financially attractive. In other words, run Eskom like any other normal private profit making business worldwide. Nothing special or abnormal or unusual.

Frans van Neerijnen

re: Renewable energy: Friend or foe?

Dear Editor,

Further to Roger Lilley’s lead editorial in the March 2018 edition of Energize, I would like to say that it really is good news that the PPAs of the IPPs in rounds 3.5 and 4 of REIPPPP have been signed. More good news is that the IRP is going to be updated soon.

A lower demand for electricity might exist because of the contraction of the economy but is, as Lilley says, also a result of additional renewable energy coming on line, higher efficiency operation on demand side and more in-house power generation by industries and businesses.

Eskom could address the reduced demand by closing older power stations, but this might not be transparent. Some older power stations will close in future or have their units put on cold reserve. This is quite an expensive exercise because some of these power stations’ electrostatic precipitators have been replaced with bag filters and several of these power station received “modular turbine upgrades” and modular components to extend major maintenance periods.

It might be advantageous to close power stations which receive coal by road, although road to rail projects are in place. Besides Eskom’s road to rail projects, the Department of Environmental Affairs has undertaken its “mitigation potential analysis” which it says indicates that the shift of freight from road to rail is to be considered as a high priority, greenhouse gas mitigation measure.

Reducing personnel at these plants will be problematic as it is questionable whether other power stations could absorb these people. Some people are against renewable energy simply because of this. However, it is known that renewable energy projects provide employment in construction as well as operation. Retraining of these retrenched workers could possibly be undertaken by the government as part of its COP21 and employment commitments.

Many reports show that the cost of renewable energy, per kWh, has come down tremendously and is now cheaper than coal-fired generation. Renewable energy from wind and PV is intermittent and requires storage or fast start-up plant such LNG-fired combined-cycle gas turbines to fill in the gaps. Germany, with substantially less sunshine and wind than South Africa, is a very large renewable energy market because it wishes to protect its environment, prevent the effects of climate change and build a sustainable future. South Africa should be no different.

Hugo de Koningh

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