Eskom’s transmission network to be expanded significantly

Speaking at the power utility’s annual public forum on transmission and distribution planning, Thava Govender, the utility’s group executive for transmission and acting group executive for risk and sustainability,  said the power utility plans to add an additional 6700 km of high voltage lines and 41 000 MVA transformation equipment the its transmission network over the next ten years.

From left: Ronald Marais, Leslie Naidoo, Altha Scott, Makoanyane Theku and Thava Govender.

Eskom’s Transmission Development Plan (TDP) for 2018-2027 takes cognisance of the growing interest in new generating technologies such as gas, renewables and new generation nuclear.

Some adjustments have been made to the TDP since its last publication in 2015, including the re-phasing of the capital investment in transmission projects, to align with the project execution timelines associated with servitude acquisitions and current available funding. However, significant progress also has been made, such as the 765 kV transmission infrastructure from Mpumalanga to the Western Cape, consisting of approximately 1400 km of lines, which was successfully commissioned earlier this year. Furthermore, approximately 900 km of HV power lines have been commissioned during this period, Govender said.

Close to R2,4-billion has been invested in the integration of independent power producers (IPPs) to the grid in support of Bid Windows 1 to 3 of the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme, resulting in a total of 61 projects being successfully commissioned and contributing some 3520 MW to the system, Govender said.

According to Govender, part of the Transmission Development Plan for the period 2018 to 2027, Eskom plans to increase its transmission infrastructure by approximately 6700 km of high-voltage lines and 41 000 MVA of transformation capacity in the next ten years. This is part of its commitment to capital investment in infrastructure and why Eskom currently has one of the largest capital investment projects in the country.

Eskom is investing in its own infrastructure, while creating a new electricity market in South Africa. It is playing a critical role in the connection of independent power producers and creating a new electricity market for the country. Large-scale renewable generation projects in areas such as wind and solar energy are being connected to the grid. This is the power utility’s contribution to further diversify the country’s energy mix, said Govender.

Ronald Marais, a senior manager responsible for the utility’s strategic grid planning, said that over 50 GW of load is projected by 2028, compared to about 44 GW at present.  He attributes this additional load to be centred in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape where most of the economic activity takes place.

Marais also noted that more electricity will travel from the southern parts of the country to the northern parts in future – the opposite of what is currently happening. The reason for this change, Marais said, is the increasing number of renewable energy generators in the Northern Cape as well as a possible new nuclear power station to be built at Thuyspunt or Duynefontein in the Western Cape.

Should a new nuclear power plant be built at Duynefontein, the utility would need to build a 765 kV transmission line to evacuate the power, Marais said.

The utility is also planning for new renewable energy connections. Makoanyane Theku, a manager responsible for infrastructure planning support, said that in some cases new corridors will have to be acquired to evacuate power generated in areas where no, or weak, infrastructure exists.

Atha Scott, a senior manager responsible for asset investment planning said that the utility uses an asset management framework to determine the usable life and refurbishment needs of all transmission equipment.

There are also cross-border transmission lines to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho, allowing electricity to be traded with the rest of Southern Africa. It is one of Eskom Transmission Group’s strategic objectives to increase the capacity of these interconnections to allow for greater volumes of electricity to be traded to reduce upward pressure on tariffs and improve security of electricity supply in South Africa in the longer term.

The Medupi and Kusile power stations are due to be completed during the period covered by this TDP, along with any remaining transmission network reinforcements to accommodate the stations’ full output. In addition, further IPPs, renewable and conventional generation as determined by the Department of Energy, will be connected to the network.

Furthermore, new loads need to be connected, which requires additional network capacity to be provided to load centres around the country. The planned increase in conventional generation of approximately 15 GW together with 11 GW of renewable energy will ensure access to electricity for more South Africans in their homes, as well as supplies to schools, clinics, hospitals, businesses, mines and industries to promote economic growth, job creation and improved quality of life, said Govender.


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