Carol Paton Writer at Large

Can Eskom keep the lights on, all day, for everyone, for all but 25 days in winter? The “winter plan” put on the table by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom board and executives on Wednesday, will result in a maximum of 25 days of stage one load-shedding, they say. But the plan is barely plausible. Achieving it is going to require a much better performing Eskom, some luck and shiploads of diesel. Eskom has 46,500MW of installed capacity. The plan assumes that at any one time 9,500MW will be down on what is called “an unplanned outage” or breakdown. Another 3,000MW to 5,000MW (Eskom hopes the latter) will be out of commission for planned maintenance. This leaves 30,000MW to meet the peak demand in winter, assuming there are no load losses, which are heat losses that occur during generation to a varying extent. But, here’s the problem. The average losses from unplanned maintenance over the past six months have averaged 9,800MW. At times, unplanned outages have hit...

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