On the 9th of this month, for the first time ever, Eskom, South Africa’s national power utility company, implemented Stage 6 Load shedding in which Eskom had to shed a load of 6000 MW to stabilise the grid. South Africa’s current installed capacity is 49.4 GW, according to the Draft Integrated Recourse Plan (2018) from South Africa’s Department of Energy.
Eskom issued a statement saying that due to unplanned breakdowns at some of its power stations (totalling 12 465 MW) and continuous rains which have impacted coal handling and operations, Eskom needed to carry out a loadshedding programme to prevent a national blackout.
6,000 MW means a lot of unhappy consumers. To put this into perspective, taking out 6,000 MW is equivalent to switching off the whole of Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe’s available power generation capacity combined. Zambia and Zimbabwe each have an installed capacity of over 2,200 MW, but due to the current drought affecting their hydro power plants, the available generation capacity in each country less than 1000 MW. About 4,000 MW is usually available from Nigeria’s installed generation capacity of 12,500 MW.
Unlike most countries in the region, South Africa’s grid has historically been very stable. So, the blackouts will leave many in the dark whom would not have had any backup systems installed. The current blackouts are certainly going to catalyse a surge in the adoption of battery backup systems.
South Africa has been experiencing a boom in the adoption of grid-tied solar systems, especially in the commercial and industrial (C&I) space as large corporations look for cheaper electricity through long-term corporate PPAs with independent power providers. Most of these large C&I firms would also have onsite diesel-generator backup plants and would probably look into integrating PV systems with the diesel generators to keep the PV going during grid outages as the immediate solution to see them through this crisis in the short term.
The costs of large-scale stationary storage to cover outages of this magnitude may appear to still be on the high side for their financial controllers, but if the outages do not end soon, large-scale distributed stationary storage systems will become more appealing.
For the residential sector and for small businesses, battery storage is a viable option at this stage. The excessive loadshedding programmes being implemented currently in South Africa could result in the Small C&I and residential markets becoming key focus areas, and these are the segments that will most likely see significant uptake of stationary storage systems in the short term.
Eskom’s Loadshedding programme is structured in “Stages” in which Eskom sheds a certain quantum of load from the grid to stabilise the grid. Depending on the severity of the crisis, loadshedding is implemented in stages from Stage 1 to Stage 8, where Stage 1 sheds 1,000 MW of load from the grid and in a Stage 8 scenario, Eskom takes out 8,000 MW of load from the grid. Loadshedding is implemented over 2-hour or 4-hour blocks on a rotational basis depending on the severity of the crises. Stage 8, however, means most consumers will experience a blackout for about 12 hours.
All of this loadshedding drama seems to be creating the perfect platform for the Tesla Powerwall. The Powerwall is finally available after a very long wait for South Africans and is now available to order nationwide. The Powerwall had been delayed in many markets as the production lines were “cell starved” in a strategic call by Tesla to shift all attention to overcoming the famous “production hell” stage as they ramped up production of the Model 3.
Orders in South Africa opened on December 2, with the Powerwall retailing for about R150,000 including installation by Tesla certified installers. The Powerwall is going for R120,000, the backup energy gateway is priced at R19,000, and installation ranges from R10,000 to R15,000.
With a continuous power rating of 5 kW and 13.5 kWh of usable energy storage, the Powerwall sits at the sweet spot for backup services for homes, small offices, lodges, and boutique hotels. With capability to stack up to 10 Powerwalls giving 135 kWh of usable energy, we certainly hope the Powerwall will be available in large volumes to satisfy demand. The demand is clearly there according to Rubicon, which has been impressed by the interest so far.
Several financed and leasing options are sure to follow in South Africa’s advanced credit/financing industry, lowering the barriers to adoption. It looks like the Powerwall is coming in at the right time.
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