The performance of Eskom’s generation fleet has deteriorated dramatically in the first quarter of 2015, according to the national energy regulator’s (Nersa) latest System Adequacy Report dated March 30.
Instead of reducing its maintenance backlog by doing more scheduled maintenance, Eskom is clearly increasingly plagued by unexpected breakdowns. The capacity unavailable due to such breakdowns has increased by a staggering 46.8% from 2014.
The document, based on Eskom’s own reports to Nersa, shows that a full 28.85% of Eskom’s generation capacity, that is 12 149MW, was on average unavailable in the three months from January to March this year. This is a dramatic increase from 22.2% or 9 346MW in 2014.
Eskom’s stated target is 80% plant availability with 10% out on planned and 10% on unplanned maintenance.
While suspended Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona vowed in January to increase planned maintenance, it only increased marginally from 9.87% of available capacity or 4 157MW in 2014, to 10.76% or 4 530MW in the first quarter of 2015.
Unplanned maintenance, increased from 12.32% of available capacity (5 189MW) in 2014, to 18.1% or 7 619MW. That is an increase of almost 47% in MW terms.
The rapid deterioration of plant performance is clear when taking into account that unplanned maintenance stood 4 993MW in 2013. Planned maintenance was at 4 015MW and on average a total of 21.39% of generation capacity or 9 008MW was unavailable.
According to the report Eskom’s total generation capacity, including imported power and power purchased form independent producers, will increase from 45 563MW last year to 49 291MW in 2015.
Last year Nersa measured Eskom’s total reserve margin at 31.72%, but forecasts a drop to 24.67% this year. This represents the difference between the annual peak demand and total available capacity, including imported power and power purchased form independent producers. The margin is expected to increase to 26.12% next year and 28.25% in 2017.
Shaun Nel, spokesperson of the Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG) that represents Eskom’s biggest industrial customers, says it is of great concern that Eskom is clearly not making any headway with its maintenance backlog.
He says the EIUG is daily keeping track of Eskom’s planned and unplanned outages and it is clear the increase in breakdowns is preventing Eskom from doing the much needed scheduled maintenance. “Today 13 500MW was out of service (planned and unplanned outages),” Nel said on Tuesday. This number exceeds the average total amount of capacity unavailable in the first quarter.
The utility reverted to stage 1 load shedding on Tuesday afternoon.
Nel says Eskom is also restricted by a lack of skills to do the plant maintenance. He says the utility has requested assistance from the original equipment manufacturers, but is battling to get the necessary visas to bring their skilled workers to South Africa.
The EIUG has been concerned for some time about the quantity as well as the quality of maintenance done by Eskom. Nel says the breakdowns often occur shortly after a plant is brought back to service after scheduled maintenance.
Eskom was approached for comment, but did not take the opportunity to do so.