Eskom warns of continued load-shedding as presses ahead with maintenance programme

Light bulb moment

ESKOM, the South African state-owned power utility, warned of more nationwide outages as it tackled long-overdue repairs at its coal-fired fleet, said Bloomberg News citing Eskom COO, Jan Oberholzer.

At a briefing today, Oberholzer said the stability of electricity supply was likely to improve later this year. “We will continue to take units off and maintain them properly,” he said. “The power system remains vulnerable and volatile, with the risk of load-shedding significantly reduced after the completion of the reliability maintenance by September 2021.”

Eskom has implemented power supply rationing, or load-shedding, on 19 days so far this year after record blackouts in 2020, said Bloomberg News. That followed years of underinvestment in new capacity and a failure to maintain its plants, a number of which are past or approaching their retirement date, it said.

There were 1,798 gigawatt hours of power cuts last year, even as new capacity became operational from coal, wind, and solar sources, said the newswire citing a report by the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research.

Eskom reported some improvement as it fixed defects in its newest units at Medupi and Kusile. It’s also had 4,190 employees and contractors test positive for the coronavirus, with 104 fatal cases, said Bloomberg News.

Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) — which measures the availability of its power generation plants —  is 65%, down from 67% a year ago, said BusinessLive in its coverage of Eskom’s briefing. The goal is for it to rise to 70%.

It cited Oberholzer as saying that two power stations, Tutuka and Duvha, had particularly low EAFs of close to 40%. There was, however, at the same time a “positive investment” in maintenance, which rose from 9% to nearly 13%.

Oberholzer said it appeared that the EAF appeared to have plateaued and Eskom needed to ensure it improved and did not deteriorate further.