Eskom diesel cost to increase a third to R20.9bn in effort to keep lights on

SOUTH Africa’s state-owned power utility Eskom has forecast a tripling in the cost of diesel which it uses to keep the lights on when its coal-fired fleet fails.

According to a report by Bloomberg News, Eskom expected that in a most likely scenario a third of its power stations would undergo maintenance at any one time this year. These views were contained in an Eskom presentation to the National Economic Development and Labour Council, which groups business, government and labour union representatives.

If this scenario played out Eskom would spend R20.9bn operating its open-cycle gas turbines in the 13 months through to April next year, or almost three times what it spent in the financial year ended March 2021, said the newswire.

Eskom has forecast that its debt will rise to R416bn by the end of March and the unplanned expenditure will add to its financial woes.

“The system is volatile and dynamic and hence this is the best indication Eskom had at the time,” the company said in response to queries, confirming the presentation. Bloomberg said Eskom didn’t state what fuel price it used to make its assessments in the presentation.

Under its most likely scenario, about 12,000MW to 13,000MW would be unavailable at any time due to breakdowns and some missing capacity would need to be replaced using turbines, said Bloomberg News.

Even then, 25 days of power cuts should be expected as it would struggle to replenish diesel supplies fast enough and there would be financial constraints in paying for the fuel, the company said in the presentation.