Eskom warns of a dark winter ahead

The utility says it hopes to see this round of load shedding end by Friday morning.
Eskom is struggling to keep unplanned breakdowns in check. Image: Supplied

State-owned power utility on Tuesday warned that consumers can – in the best-case scenario – expect to soldier through 37 days of load shedding in the upcoming winter season and in the worst-case scenario expect to brave over 100 days of power cuts.

This comes after Eskom escalated load shedding to Stage 4 on Tuesday morning after reinstating the power cuts on Sunday evening.

Eskom’s chief executive for transmission Segomoco Scheepers says the only way to avoid the worst-case scenario is for the utility to contain its unplanned generation losses.

“At the last briefing I think we did give an indication that if we were able to contain the unplanned [breakdowns] below 12 500 megawatts, we should not have any load shedding.”

“Obviously today we are struggling to achieve the lower level of unplanned [breakdowns] that we desire, and it progressively increases to 37 days for winter and in the extreme could be as high as I think we had about 101 days. But that is clearly very far in the extreme,” Scheepers says.

As it stands, the power utility says it currently has 5 124 MW of planned capacity out on maintenance and is experiencing unplanned breakdowns of 16 519 MW.

According to Eskom the recent intensification to stage 4 load shedding was necessitated by the failure of two generation units – one each at Tutuka and Majuba power stations, which tripped this morning. This adds to the units which had already tripped at Tutuka, Camden, Matla and Majuba power stations on Monday.

Eskom says it hopes to see an end to this spate of load shedding on Friday morning should the units it expects to return to service during the course of this week do so.

“So, we will be in a better situation by about Thursday evening and Friday. We are hoping that we will reassess and see but we believe that the opportunity to stop load shedding will be there, certainly by Thursday evening, Friday morning,” generation executive Phillip Dukashe says.

“Since Monday a unit each at Hendrina, Medupi, Tutuka, Arnot and two at Camden power stations have been returned to service,” Eskom says.

Read: Load shedding crisis as Eskom breakdown hits record levels

Read: ArcelorMittal to develop two renewable energy plants in SA

Bad weather

The utility says the persistent rains seen in the country over the last week, as well as increased demand for power during the Easter break, contributed significantly to the latest round of power cuts.

“We did not have as good an Easter weekend as we would have liked. The heavy rains did not assist. We have been experiencing at certain of our power stations issues with coal that has become too wet to handle. So, when the coal is fit down the shoot into the boilers, it tends to cause blockages and it tends to stick and this has caused us to suffer some losses,” Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter says.

The utility adds that it now looks to replenish its reserves capacity to ensure some units return to service and help stabilise the country’s power supply.

Read: ‘Urgently wave localisation rules for cheaper energy supply’

Read: Inside the ‘coal supply emergency’ at Eskom [April 2018]

Read: Eskom’s coal stockpiles deteriorate further [November 2018]

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“ANC incompetence and looting are leaving you without electricity for 50% of the day, but you should be grateful because that is still 100% more than what you will receive in the not too distant future. You see, to accurately reflect the ANC mindset and ethos, you should actually have no electricity at all, even though you are paying an arm and a leg for it.

Now you will realize that you should be grateful because it could be much worse. Just shut up and pay your Eskom bill and your taxes. As long as you pretend to pay your taxes, we will pretend to generate electricity.” – Eskom spokesman and ANC cadre.

I find it very strange that Eskom is muted about the thousands of households and businesses that uses solar to reduce dependency on the grid. The “bad weather” and “rain” not only influences electricity generation from coal, but also from the sun. It will be very interesting to research a correlation between cloud cover and load shedding in SA. Is Eskom now reliant on the “partly of grid” clients to keep the lights on?

What they never mention with regards load shedding:

Heavy rains cause a lot of mud and poor quality – yes, however, when many mines are now getting very attractive offers on export thermal coal (by road), they are intentionally because of intense international quality controls keeping the “best stuff” for these lucrative contracts and ESKOM is getting the dregs, so to speak – quality enforcement is nowhere near where it should be.

Road hauls which are truly massive into ESKOM suffer very badly with regards to delays in heavy rains and cause severe choke points at power stations and mines. If original designs were adhered to road would be minimal and impacts would be a non event. Stop allowing trucks to tip 5 tons+ of water and sludge per tipper – reject them.

Load shedding is demonstrably far worse during holidays – it is a total falsehood that consumption increases in holidays – when at that very moment large business and corporates scale down consumption. Someone needs to not be so lax with the employment rosters during these holidays and especially school holidays and at least attempt to discipline the massive amount of ESKOM employee AWOL days incurred over these periods.

These are not the only issues but at least pretend to address some of them. You do not have to be a genius to figure out the kind of criminal opportunities and loop holes this presents to the eagle eyed.

End of comments.

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