Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe on Tuesday confirmed that the power utility will expedite plans to close four power stations in order to accommodate renewable independent power producers (IPPs).
The stations are the 3 000MW Kriel, 1 000 MW Komati, 2 000 MW Hendrina and the 1 600 MW Camden power station, all in Mpumalanga.
Phasiwe says two of Komati’s six units have in fact already been closed down and its other units as well as the other three stations will be closed down gradually as renewable IPPs connect to the grid.
Phasiwe says the decision to close down the power stations was taken by Eskom management last year and the idea was to first communicate it to stakeholders before making a public announcement. Eskom’s plan was however overtaken by events last week when coal truck drivers publicly protested the phasing out of Eskom’s coal transport contracts in accordance with the closure of the power stations.
Some of the power station units were earlier kept on “idle mode” and only ramped up if supply from renewable IPPs dipped. That however resulted in a reduction in revenue from the stations, while overheads remain unchanged.
Eskom’s efforts to renegotiate the IPP contracts were overruled by government and the utility has no choice but to close down the stations as economic growth and electricity demand remains flat, Phasiwe said.
Phasiwe said Eskom will in due course announce more detailed timelines for the power station closures. At the moment there are “a lot of moving variables,” he said.
He did disclose that Hendrina will be closed by December next year, when the controversial coal supply contract with Gupta-owned company Tegeta comes to an end.
Eskom has started issuing budget quotes to renewable IPPs and will connect the projects to the grid at the tariffs agreed with the department of energy, he said.
Trade union federation has called Eskom arrogant for “unilaterally” deciding to close the power stations. Cosatu said it will meet Eskom and government on the issue and mobilise workers to oppose the move.
“If we have surplus electricity then we must cancel nuclear, reduce prices, export more to Africa and invest in building electric cars,” Cosatu said in a statement.
“We agree with the Num that SA’s climate change obligations to introduce renewable energy into the electricity grid should not result in backdoor privatisation and further commercialisation of Eskom.”
Cosatu demanded that Eskom and government suspend their plan to shut down down the power stations “until a just transition-solution is arrived at by all affected stakeholders”.