Jan Oberholzer. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Jan Oberholzer. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Eskom’s power plants have continued to perform poorly despite the utility’s previous promises that intensive maintenance would result in a “step-change” in the system this year.

In a status of the system briefing on Monday, Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer, provided an overview of the utility’s poorly performing generation business.

Eskom remains committed to its “reliability maintenance programme”, which it initially said would result in a “step-change” in the system by April.

In March, however, this deadline was extended and, at the time, Oberholzer said: “The risk of load-shedding [will be] significantly reduced after the completion of the reliability maintenance by September 2021.” 

On Monday, after a weekend of load-shedding that will continue into Tuesday night, Oberholzer said Eskom generation’s poor performance has already resulted in 32 days of load-shedding in the current financial year, a worrying trend compared with 47 days of load-shedding for the entire previous financial year.

Plant performance, as measured by an Energy Availability Factor (EAF), was 65.3% and way below the 70% EAF target that Eskom has set itself for this financial year and no different to the EAF a year ago.

The Eskom COO said Covid-19 caused Eskom to lose time at the start of implementing its reliability maintenance programme. “We believe that 18 months of reliability maintenance will take us to a situation where we can minimise and reduce the risk of load-shedding. We never said that we will eliminate load- shedding,” he said.

An explosion at the Medupi power station’s unit four in August caused extensive damage and is expected to take two years to resolve. Two units at Kendal power station also remain offline after a transformer caught fire, Oberholzer said. On Sunday the unit 1 trip at the Koeberg nuclear power station took a further 920MW offline.

The challenge of turning Eskom generation’s poor performance around is “taking longer than what we have imagined at the beginning, but we are moving forward”, Oberholzer said. “Slowly but surely, we will chip away at it, and we will succeed.”

But Eskom emphasised that, to eliminate load-shedding and stimulate the economy, there is an urgent need for additional 4,000MW-6,000MW generation capacity on a sound financial justification to complement the utility’s available capacity. 

Despite the mounting challenges facing the power system, Eskom has committed to do all it can to minimise the risk of load-shedding over the local government elections, which are scheduled for November 1.

Load-shedding has become a particularly hot topic ahead of the local government elections, especially in the City of Johannesburg where executive mayor Mpho Moerane in a statement on Sunday said the municipality rejected Eskom’s load-shedding schedule as it has secured 220MW of additional power from the privately owned Kelvin Power Station and so qualified for an exemption of stage 1 and stage 2 load-shedding.

At Monday’s briefing, Eskom group executive for distribution Monde Bala said “the situation that has emanated between ourselves and City Power” should have been handled better.  

Bala said City Power signed a contract to extend its existing supply from Kelvin, but managed to secure the additional power as part of that agreement.

He confirmed that City Power subsequently submitted a request for Eskom to exclude it from certain stages of load-shedding. “I can confirm that we have assessed their request and we have since responded to City Power,” Bala said, noting that there are regulatory requirements for load-shedding that need to be adhered to.

He said Eskom and City Power are engaged in ongoing meetings and a way forward is expected to be resolved in coming days. “At this point in time, it does remain that City Power are supposed to load-shed, in line with [regulatory] requirements,” Bala said.



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