Carol Paton Writer at Large
The entrance to Eskom's Medupi power station, outside Lephalale in Limpopo. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
The entrance to Eskom's Medupi power station, outside Lephalale in Limpopo. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

It will take Eskom a full two years to restore its plants to an acceptable level of performance, officials told MPs on Wednesday.

Eskom’s plants are in a poor state of repair due to postponed or foregone maintenance causing “unplanned outages”, which have constrained the system and brought back the risk of load-shedding.

Eskom’s chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said: “Its not a quick fix; it’s a process but we are very optimistic that we will turn it around.”

Oberholzer said he expected plant performance — measured by the amount of electricity available for dispatch or energy availability factor (EAF) — to deteriorate further for the year from its level of 74%. This is significantly lower than in 2017, where the EAF stood at 79%. The target level is 80%.

Oberholzer said that entire units at four power stations were on “long-term outage” due to “major incidents”. A second difficulty was “teething problems” at the new units of Medupi and Kusile recently brought on line.

Partial breakdowns and inefficiencies at plants across the board were causing “partial load losses”.

“This is the case in all stations. But to fix it you need an outage and because we are running very close to demand, it is not easy to take units out of service,” he said.

“Outage slips” — the failure to bring a unit back into service after maintenance — were also compounding the problem. Boiler tube leaks, which were a result of “not following through on maintenance”, were also reducing energy output, he said.

patonc@businesslive.co.za