Eskom remains on a knife edge

Load shedding suspended but underlying generation capacity does not look good.
All indications are that more than 50% of Eskom’s coal fleet is currently offline. Image: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg

It is not clear publicly just how bad the picture is across Eskom’s aging coal power station fleet.

Strong indications are that things are bad.

The utility has not published a weekly system status report since the start of October and its public data portal has not been updated since last Wednesday.

It says there has been a “fairly significant failure of the data support system” but that this “will be resolved soon”. It is unclear whether this and the failure to update its weekly system status reports are related.

What we do know is that Eskom is currently barely managing to generate 26 000 megawatts (MW) of power to meet peak demand in the evenings.

Factoring in the contribution from renewable generation at the peak, there remains a shortfall of between 3 000MW and 4 000MW to meet demand.

How Eskom managed to stick to Stage 2

To avoid Stage 4 load shedding this week – where 4 000MW of demand is removed – it is relying on most of its 14 open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) peaking plants and is cutting supply to its large industrial customers, including South 32’s aluminium smelters near Richards Bay. On Monday, it removed 1 200MW of supply to these customers.


Eskom implemented Stage 2 (a shortfall of 2 000MW) load shedding from Friday (October 8). At that point, it said this would be until Thursday, October 14, at 5am. However, generating capacity has not improved materially since then.

Its 14 OCGT plants can generate up to 2 067MW of power. So far this week, it has been supplementing its baseload generation capacity at peak with as much as 1 800MW from these plants.

Monday October 11, 19:32 Tuesday October 12, 18:51
Total demand 31 023MW 30 207MW
Interruptible load supply 900MW 450MW
Virtual power station 278MW 206MW
Number of Eskom OCGTs utilised 12 11
Number of IPP OCGTs utilised 0 0
Renewable generation 941MW 1 603MW
Load shedding 2 052MW 1 938MW
Eskom generation capacity 26 272MW 25 968MW

When one removes the additional sources of generating capacity, in other words everything except coal, the picture starts to look problematic.

  • Peak generation capacity ±26 000MW
  • OCGTs ±1 800MW
  • Nuclear generation 1 846MW
  • International imports ±1 200MW (Cahora Bassa hydroelectric).
Imports were halved last Friday as maintenance started at Cahora Bassa. This will be restored to full capacity of  around 1 200MW on Friday morning (October 15).

It is not clear how much of its pumped water generation capacity it is using at the moment, but it is highly likely that it is using these schemes to provide between 1 500MW and 2 000MW of power in the evenings (never mind using these to stave off a higher level of load shedding during the day).

This means its coal fleet is producing no more than 20 000MW of electricity at the peak. The number is more than likely around 19 000MW.

Capacity versus reality

Eskom says its installed capacity is 48 585MW. This includes non-commercial units at Kusile (likely two of the outstanding three).

Remove Koeberg, OCGTs and imports from this capacity, and you are left with around 41 000MW of coal capacity.

This means more than 50% of Eskom’s coal fleet is offline.

On Wednesday afternoon the utility announced the suspension of load shedding from 5am on Thursday, as planned, but cautions that “there are still significant risks to some generating units, which would force Eskom to implement load shedding at short notice should we lose any further generation capacity”.

Last week it said there had been breakdowns of generating units at Kriel, Tutuka, Grootvlei, Kendal, Kusile, Komati and Hendrina power stations.

It said “whilst still recovering four units at Tutuka, which had experienced conveyor belt failures, the fleet suffered a cluster of boiler tube leaks within a short period of time”.

Certain of these units will likely have already returned to service, but based on the peak generating capacity picture shared each evening, it is equally likely that other plants suffered breakdowns.

It says it expects units to return to service at Kriel, Majuba, Hendrina, Lethabo and Tutuka power stations overnight and over the next few days.

It says total breakdowns amount to 14 868MW of capacity, with planned maintenance at 5 277MW. These figures are virtually identical to the data shared on Friday night (14 982MW and 5 334MW). The explosion at Unit 4 at Medupi in August, which has left 800MW of capacity out of service for what is expected to be the next two years, is included in the planned maintenance figure.

CEO Andre de Ruyter told eNCA on Wednesday that the utility is working to avoid load shedding as the country heads into election season.

Read: Eskom is being reset: CEO sets out how


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Electricity shortages are a worldwide phenomenon. South Africans need to come to terms with it.

Earlier this year, California and Texas, had to deal with power outages and China currently has a power shortage.

Australia had power outages earlier this year and the Australian government is already warning, that they will experience electricity shortages, over the summer.

Eskom is doing their best, under trying circumstances. They deserve to be commended.

Hey Effy – working night shift in a chicken farm is a bi2%ch ne !!
It does provide you with sh1t to type though!!

Sigh… I really don’t understand why EFF Commisar receives so much abuse on this site. I don’t agree with with most of the things he says or believes, but your comment is the type I expect from twitter or YouTube. I would rather he posts his ideas here where they can be openly discussed and challenged than for them to bounce around in an echo chamber.

I find your comment worthless and disgusting.

Once. Not 4x a day for years on end. That’s the difference. But then we’re a 3rd World disaster not 1st World. Maybe choose better benchmarks. Like Kenya. Or Zambia

It is not a worldwide phenomenon that a government plus a bunch of criminal Indian “businessmen” destroy the finances of a monopoly power company without consequences to anyone, thus causing multi decade load shedding.

Most countries are able to fix problems pretty quickly when critical infrastructure is damaged.

“phenomenon” Hahaahahah

Yea right, a very very strange thing the last years of democracy…

Eskom will remain on a knife edge as long as the following remain:
– BEE, especially after having to procure diesel through BEE when all the Oil Companies have their BEE;
– ANC corruption, mismanagement and cadre deployment;
– ANC municipalities not paying Eskom for electric;
– Unsustainable debt.

Thanks Commissar for waking up, or staying awake till after midnight to give us your opinion. That there other parts of the world that have or had energy issues doesn’t mean that SA’s “challenges” were not highly preventable, and very different than problems in other parts of the world.
The UK and northern Europe suffered a 40 yr low in wind over the last few months, with the UK having inadequate gas reserves. UK gets electricity for more than 30% from wind normally, and 40% or more from gas. Some smaller energy firms went down, and consumer prices were rising, but there have been no outages AFAIK. My two kids stay in the UK.
China had some serious power cuts though.
The February Texas Big Freeze, the polar vortex was again a very different story.

I cannot work out if you smoke too much of the green stuff or you are the greatest comedian the world has seen. Maybe it is both.

The most unaffordable source of power is the one that is the most unreliable. Has we have seen for decades, it can also be used as a political weapon. All you need is the collective mindlessness to rob your children of their future.
In other countries the agenda of the money-power globalists includes the disruption of societies for the purpose of divide and conquer. Nothing new about that tactic hereabouts.

ESKOM: We don’t always supply you with electricity. But when we do, we ask you please not to use it.

This made me laugh. I thought about this the other day as well, it’s the most absurd business strategy I’ve seen in a long time.

yip,the only business that wants ” you” to use less of their product and if you use to much they penalize you with load shedding…kabouwww!!

… or if you’re a municipality, actually pay for it

Let’s all join and move to the western cape.. Comrades are not invited . We take it from there…

Interestingly enough, my recent experience Domestic Eskom billing is charging a 6month Actual cost but has not deducted any Estimate payments made for the last 6 months. It appears that they might be raising short term funding from the long suffering consumer? Perhaps this is purely co-incidence but the timing is suspect.

Yep. Must be. I have a tenant who is connected to the Eskom network. This month the bill I received (as owner) soared from and average of R890 per month to R9200! Trying to access the call centre and sending emails does not seem to help. But, I think you have hit the nail on the head.

Loadshedding and the implosion of service delivery under the ANC government were predicted and explained by Ludwig von Mises in 1920 already. He described the economic calculation and planning problems of all socialist regimes. Socialist regimes focus their attention on all types of redistribution efforts and completely ignore the market process, the cost factor, competitiveness, and efficiency.

Loadshedding, corruption, economic decay, unemployment, and bankrupt municipalities are part and parcel of the ANC ethos. We will be very naive and ignorant to expect anything else from the system.

“A socialist management of production would simply not know whether or not what it plans and executes is the most appropriate means to attain the ends sought. It will operate in the dark, as it were. It will squander the scarce factors of production both material and human (labour). Chaos and poverty for all will unavoidably result.” – Ludwig von Mises 1920.

Way off topic but regarding the following quote,
“A socialist management of production would simply not know whether or not what it plans and executes…” SABC TV is the best (worst. Advertised movies are always changed at the last minute and TV1, on Saturday evenings,cannot tell whether it will be showing soccer or a movie until the show actually begins.

Right on the nail!
And it’s been said over and over and over.
And the collectivist, socialist mindset just don’t ever get it.
Can we not demand that every political aspirant take Economics 101 as a non-elective (of the Western model, NOT “Belgrade 1950’s” style economics)?
Instead of Political Science?(An oxymoron if ever there was one)

I may be wrong but if the ANC are using Eskom as an election tool, they have stooped lower than before.

They have zero to crow about in their electioneering BS so this may be one of those, “Look we fixed it for YOU the voter” cases.

Or they have internal sabotaging going on trying to get rid of Andre as he scratches the dirt away.

Last week Dennis Davis interviewed Gwede Mantashe on “Judge for yourself”.

Davis stated that planning shows that SA needs to add 33GW of capacity in order to meet the developing needs of the country. When he asked how this would be financed, Mantashe said that we would have to rely on investments from the private sector.

From the discussion its clear that Mantashe does not understand the difference between a Megawatt and a Gigawatt. Really he is beyond his sell by date.

Its not a given that the private sector will want to invest in power projects given ANC propensity to legislate anti free market laws with increasing frequency.

I wonder if ANC Davis even grilled him? In my view the ANC leadership have never viewed Eskom as an electricity generator; it is, like SAA, just an entity that, courtesy of AA and BEE, can be raped and looted for their benefit. These ANC elites have done a superb job of enriching themselves and the line at the trough never gets shorter. Hence the present situation; ANC aligned hairdressers supplying diesel to Eskom at a few ZAR more than pump price must be laughing all the way to the bank.

There is only one option in my view; sell off the generation fleet; fairly, honestly, no BEE etc etc, only rule is it cannot be a monopoly. Will never happen of course.

We will be on a knife edge daily for many years to come.Eskom and the ANC have and still are screwing up. No matter how much Maintenance and money you throw at the older Power Stations and use coal our economy will not recover. We have to go green due to Global warming but Wind and Solar no matter how many we build will not be enough to get out of Eskom mess.

The CEO and I like what he is trying to achieve stated last year that during Covid and business are down they can catch up on the back log Maintenance and we would be okay this year.

Well Sir as an Engineer you know the reality so stay focused as the CEO and do your job.

Stop behaving like a Politician trying to bullshit the Public. Your comment about no Load Shedding during Election day Wow. It means burning Diesel at what cost with money you don’t have.

Splitting Eskom 3 entities might save cost but give us more Generation capacity.

We are in serious trouble and new builds Nuclear should have started 20 years ago but we could not even design 2 power stations on time and within budget.
The ANC is not listening and no money to start new builds which take years.

Wakeup South Africa. Last year Mr Zuma made a comment we would not be having load shedding as he had a plan to go Nuclear. Do you know how long it takes to build any plant let alone a Nuclear plant as we have witnessed.

Enough set but Cyril said we are going to grow the Economy and create jobs. Well Sir tell us on your Pulpit how we are going to do that without reliable Electricity and water?

Enough said.

Retired Refiner.

BLAH BLAH BLAH They can’t run a company and I know why. You have a bunch of dis-interested staff that are struggling financially and wondering if I will keep my job. I have had an issue with them for 5 months. The old Army adage “HURRY UP AND WAIT!”

Funny how people talk renewables down because they are intermittent, are not baseload, etc. Half of Eskom’s coal units only operate 50% of the time.

when it comes to eskom, in every aspect, may it be admin, financial, techinical, management or anything in between they are just a 100% lost case – 1 swallow does not make summer – eskom does not realize that the light they observed in the tunnel has nothing to do with an electricity solution, but an oncoming ore train

The IMF has revised South Africa’s growth outlook up to 5%!

Eskom: here, hold my beer…

Best R70k I ever spent. 8 Panels, 3kw invertor & 3.5kw lithium battery….load shedding, what load shedding. People say I will never see a ROI, but the new work from home model changes those calcs. Next step is completely off grid.

LOL — True but keeping my blonde happy trumps ROI every time.

So how is this economy supposed to grow then? Come on geniuses, it is clear there is no way in hell that will ever happen

When a bunch of corrupt and incompetent politicians try to run an organisation like Eskom, it’s bound to be a disaster. Who ever thought it would be otherwise?

Eskom is unfortunate in that is a state entity and like the ANC and SoE’s they are such closed entities that there is no completion allowed into their respective spaces. The ANC and its SOE’s are hell bent on destroying this country

The continued power outages are a disgrace. In a modern society one would expect service delivery as a key deliverable in stead all that one years and read is just talk, talk and more talk. Long on promises and excuses but oh so short on delivery, surely they must be held accountable in the court of public opinion.

Reading the Eskom financials is like a horror story, yet they continue to offer lofty criticism on alternative means as opposed to working on solutions which again will not be achieved through talking about it, when will one get real action.

It would be for once a revelation to fully understand the full extend of what the country faces as opposed to the edited version of a fake reality.

Eskomnlike everything my parents feared would happen under ANC rule has come to pass

Eskom isn’t doing so badly. They seem to be managing a terrible situation a lot better.

If anyone thinks that years of corruption and mismanagement can be undone by the flick of a switch, then good luck with that.

It makes me really sad as a SA born electrical power engineer living overseas to read articles like this about the state of Eskom today in 2021.
To cut a long story short around the time I left SA, Eskom was in pretty good shape especially in a technical sense and we were well respected around the world with well qualified and experienced engineers in all the relevant disciplines. Every second year in Paris France at Cigre, Eskom engineers would deliver technical excellence on a par with any other utility in the world!
My background is in unit protection systems for generators and transformers in power stations and I had the good fortune to be able to work on power stations in the USA, Europe and Southeast Asia.
The point I am trying to make here is that at all these Utilities (no exceptions!)the technical staff was well qualified, experienced and dedicated to be able keep these generation units online 24/7. The maintenance has to be always 100% up to date!
Now in my humble opinion Eskom cannot and will never be in a position to recover from the financial and technical chaos that it finds itself in.
The technical expertise is long gone and the financial hole is just to massive to fill considering the SA government’s finances.
This message I know is very pessimistic but the facts speak for themselves.

End of comments.



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