Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Carol Paton’s article, Eskom to declare force majeure on wind farms as demand falls, March 31, refers.

Crisis can bring opportunity, but you must take it. As the nation entered lockdown, demand for electricity declined, which comes as no surprise given the restriction on non-essential activities. Therefore, Eskom has an opportunity (albeit unplanned) to ramp up maintenance far beyond what would have been possible under almost any other circumstance.

Load-shedding has disrupted the basic functioning of our country, and the blame is often pinned on the maintenance back-log at the aging fleet of coal-fired power stations. Yet, despite this chance to play long overdue catch-up, Eskom is reported to have postponed “philosophy maintenance” aimed at breaking the cycle of power station failures.

While awaiting a logical explanation for this move, Eskom then announced that it plans to renege on contracts with wind farms because they no longer need all the power in this time of low demand. Furthermore, Eskom would not connect recently completed renewables projects to the grid during the lockdown.

What rational motivation could there be for this?

During these unforeseen, Covid-19 circumstances, Eskom could use decreased demand, in conjunction with electricity from independent power producers (IPPs), to take multiple coal units offline and do maintenance without inducing load-shedding. Adding additional IPP capacity to the grid during lockdown would provide an extra buffer to continue these necessary coal repairs post-lockdown without turning the lights of the nation out.

It is well known that Eskom is in financial distress, so if it is due to lack of money then the government could step in as part of the Covid-19 response. This is an opportunity not to be missed. The “oversupply” of wind power could be taken advantage of, but Eskom is doing the opposite.

Richard Halsey
Project 90 by 2030