South Africa eyes Curtailment as a strategy to add more renewables, stabilise grid 🇿🇦

South Africa eyes Curtailment as a strategy to add more renewables, stabilise grid 🇿🇦

#energy and natural resources
South Africa has raised the possibility of using a Curtailment strategy, aimed at strategically avoiding overgeneration, to boost capacity on its national grid. The strategy could see some 4 GW added over a short time period. This forward-thinking approach adds to recent optimistic statements regarding ongoing blackouts.

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An innovative electricity management strategy is under consideration to ease pressure on South Africa's power grid and potentially provide an additional 4 GW of renewable energy to consumers.

Segomoco Scheepers, Managing Director of the Transmission Division for Eskom, speaking at the Green Energy Africa Summit on Tuesday (October 10) highlighted the efficacy of using the Curtailment system to counter electricity losses.

“Curtailment is a technique applied by utilities in parts of the world that have a far larger penetration of renewables than we have,” said Scheepers. 

Curtailment usually refers to the reduction of the amount of electricity generated so as to maintain a balance between supply and demand, thereby making it possible to avoid blackouts. It was unclear exactly how Eskom would initiate the system.

However, the energy management technique can be used to reduce power production in areas with transmission constraints so that variable energy sources, such as wind and solar, do not overshoot grid capacity, causing blackouts or damaging the grid.

“We are engaging with our customer base who might be affected by the curtailment plan, and so far the feedback has been very positive,” he added.

With high-potential renewables regions in South Africa, such as the Eastern, Western, and Northern Cape, witnessing a proliferation of electricity generation from renewables, oversupply from these areas has caused issues for the country's grid.

Under the Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), South Africa has successfully added 6,280 MW to South Africa’s energy mix with most projects, especially wind, concentrated in the Cape Provinces.

In 2022, Eskom reported that power losses due to technical and non-technical reasons amounted to 16.5% of total generation. This is significantly higher than the global average of 8%. Overgeneration can cause power losses of up to 10%.

“In general terms, for the Eastern, Western, and Northern Cape, with less than 10% curtailment, we can add an additional 4 GW of generation capacity,” Scheepers was reported as saying in a media release put out from the summit. 

“But clearly, it's something that needs to be properly discussed with the regulator and other stakeholders,” said Scheepers. 

“We will then be able to communicate who can be connected to specific nodes on the grid. Getting approval for this strategy is already part of our workflow process.”

Scheepers revealed the proposed framework requires the approval of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) and an outline by the Independent Power Producer Office.

“Without curtailment, it's almost like you are wasting energy,” he is reported as saying. 

“Curtailment ensures we don't destabilize the system by getting too much generation when the demand is actually low.”

Scheepers also explained Eskom’s plan to be more systematic in how it dealt with its connection obligations, according to the statement.

“From a generation perspective, as we increase the level of renewables in the system, it's important that we assess the cumulative impact of all the allocations before they are approved. Because if you over-commit in your approval of renewables, you could potentially be putting the system at risk, which is something we totally must avoid.’ 

“We are living in exciting times,” said Scheepers. “We continue working to decarbonize and improve energy security. The transmission grid is critical to enabling that.”

The Rainbow Nation has witnessed a recent spike in optimism regarding its load-shedding challenges, with anticipated decreases in demand coupled with a projected increase in grid capacity in the coming months poised to alleviate strain on the system.

During a recent media briefing, South Africa’s Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, outlined how expanded  the implementation of wheeling has significantly empowered private sector generation, according to,

Besides, Eskom plans to make a “significant investment” in grid maintenance, reported Ramokgopa as saying.

The Green Energy Africa Summit is a two-day event dedicated to catalyzing investments in energy projects, expanding access to sustainable energy, and promoting renewable solutions across Africa. This summit is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre 2 (CTICC2) between October 10 and 11, as part of the city's Energy Week.

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