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How Eskom plans to keep the lights on

Eskom intends to keep South Africa’s lights on this year and beyond – here are its plans and timelines.

Following a period of uncertainty, South Africans will be pleased to know that they will enjoy a warm winter and a bright Christmas as Eskom plans to keep the lights on for the next nine months at best or implement Stage 1 load shedding at worst.  

On March 14 Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan could not give an answer as to how long the power utility would need to implement load shedding. The country experienced Stage 4 power cuts until March 23 due to a combination of unplanned plant unit failures, a lack of diesel and abrupt cuts in import supply.

At the time Gordhan assured the public that there would be a plan in two weeks. On Wednesday he kept his promise, albeit a few days late.

The minister, together with the recently appointed technical review team as well as Eskom chief executive Phakamani Hadebe and board chair Jabu Mabuza, took the media through the utility’s “frank and factual” two-part plan on how Eskom plans to get better performance from its power plants. The group was also clear that there would be consequences for managers and employees who failed to ensure that the plans were executed in the set timelines.

‘Absolutely crucial’

“Ensuring the right kind of supply of electricity will ensure that electricity does not act as a constraint to economic growth and this is absolutely crucial in the kind of situation that our economy finds itself in and our fiscus as well,” said Gordhan.

“We want mines to continue to produce, factories to continue to manufacture, retail to continue to do their business and small business to thrive and to ensure that the benefits of growth accrue to all South Africans.”

The ‘Winter’ plan and the ‘Next nine months and the long term’ plan are the result of work done by Eskom, the technical review task team and the sustainability task team appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Both plans have two scenarios, the first being no load shedding. In this case, Eskom will ensure that it will not lose more than 9 500 megawatts (MW) of energy to unplanned outages and tripping of power plants while planned outages will be kept between a range of 3 000 MW and 5 000 MW.

Should the unplanned outages go above 9 500 MW this will trigger Stage 1 load shedding, also known as Scenario 2. This will last for a maximum of 26 days, which will be spread out throughout the winter period.

Winter plan

In order to stay within the 9 500 MW window for the winter period (from the beginning of May to the end of August), Eskom will bring back two units that have been out for a long time. Kriel Unit 2, which produces 475 MW of power, is scheduled to return to the grid on April 18, followed by Matla Unit 5, which will bring in a further 575 MW by May 13.

The Kusile 2 and Medupi 2 units, which are not yet in commercial operation, are expected to add 1 200 MW. However, Eskom system operator Bernard Magoro emphasises that they are still being tested and commissioned.

Magoro says efforts are also being made to bring Unit 3 at Kusile into synchronisation before the end of April, and that Eskom has put measures in place to ensure that money is approved and released on time to buy diesel and avoid a situation where there is a shortage.

“The other advantage with winter is because of the cooler weather conditions our plants tend to perform better; for example, at Matimba which is in Lephalale you can lose up to 1 000 MW on a bad day because of heat.”

Eskom is expecting that its power lines from the Cahora Bassa hydropower plant, which were damaged by Cyclone Idai, will be fully restored in May.

“If all these measures pan out we are quite confident that we will be able to stay within the 9 500 MW [limit],” says Magoro. “There is hope but I think we should keep at the back of our mind that there may be those odd days where things get out of control.”

Next nine months and long term plan

In order to avoid load shedding beyond August, Hadebe says the power utility will bring back Lethabo Unit 5 in December.

Eskom will also be rallying intensive energy users, such as mines and industry, to reduce demand on the grid by at least 500 MW.

“We have already spoken to them and they have shown a great deal of interest in working with us in that regard.”

The public participation drive encouraging citizens to use less electricity is also estimated to reduce demand, by between 100 MW and 500 MW.

Hadebe emphasises that Eskom will continue to implement its nine-point plan which outlines the long term turnaround strategy for the embattled utility.

Unlike in previous years, Eskom plans to maintain its preventative maintenance allocation at 5 000 MW, which is 40% higher than in the past. A budget of R49 billion over the next five years has been set aside to spend on maintenance in Eskom’s generation, transmission and distribution divisions.

At the same time, R4.5 billion will go towards resuscitating the Medupi and Kusile power stations. They have long been under construction, have gone over budget, and are still not producing the intended output.

In addition, Eskom will no longer rely on one or two refineries for diesel. It has lined up other suppliers that will be able to provide the fuel should there be a need to run open cycle gas turbines for longer than usual during peak periods.

The discipline and rigour to ensure a greater sense of accountability in implementing these plans is what will separate them from past solutions.

As Gordhan puts it: “An important culture change needs to happen within Eskom where increased levels of accountability and consequence management are going to be key.”

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Thank you Pravin, we all appreciate the good work you have done in this regard.
However, we are also aware of the fact that we, the taxpayers, will be paying for 49 billion here and the 4.5 billion there as well as the increases that Eskom have introduced.
26 years ago Eskom was producing more than local demand. Eskom could maintain the system with profits made from sales. Now we rejoice because we MAY not eat a cold Christmas meal in the dark!
My question to you sir, is what will happen to the people that broke Eskom and stole the money?
Nothing?

Hope your first sentence was sarcasm Ian, because for the life of me I cannot associate this man and his Party with any good work whatsoever. PG has no credibility left, as a cleverer, more honest man would not be associated with the ruling Party.”Birds of a feather” I’m afraid!

Wow! What a revelation! The minister realised that he cannot expect performance if he does not enforce accountability! But hang on, is it not impossible for a collectivist organisation, that believes that the “accountability lies with the collective”, to hold people accountable?

If the minister wants to hold people accountable for performance at Eskom, he will also have to reverse cadre deployment and reinstate the old workforce that comes from a capitalist background. He will have to fire the entire management structure to appoint individuals on merit, and not on struggle credentials or cronyism. He will have to reverse the socialist idea of the developmental state. He will have to abolish BEE. Accountability implies that 80% of cadres will go to jail. Accountability goes hand in hand with competence.

In other words, in order to generate electricity, the ANC has to become the DA. This is what the minister just told us. Either the minister himself is incompetent and unaccountable, or he is a liar, and most probably he is both.

This is all fair and well, but who is going to compensate my little business for the money and time lost during the blackouts? Who will repay the cost of generating our own electricity? Who will return the turnover that was lost? Who will restore profitability? Did somebody say Pravin? No? I didn’t think so. Perhaps we should strike and demand, but I’m told that is not available for a business. What is, however, available is increased demands for tax, salary increases for state and SOE employees and more snouts in the trough. Apparently the last thing that is considered is the plight of the generators of the tax that this whole system is dependent on.

Don’t forget Batman, you, I and the rapidly reducing pool of people like us are eviscerated and prejudiced due to race, in the land of our birth (this used to be called Apartheid), yet pay for EVERYTHING. Paradox. They can stick their paradox up their collective-socialistic-kleptomaniac-revolutionist-revolutionary-victimhood-orifice

Those that pay for electricity will use as little as possible, those that don’t pay will carry on regardless. The City of Johannesburg has average losses (commercial and technical) of 26%. Compliments of the ANC who promised free services and then allowed the thieving to continue for over 20 years.Vandalism and theft is rife in the City and scrap metal businesses continue to expand. Where are the ANC run law enforcement agencies..Oh! they are at stations ticking off bureaucratic lists whilst there is murder, mayhem and outright anarchy on our streets.
Fixing generation is but one part of the solution, enforcing payment and catching the copper thieves is another.

Yeah right. Words, words and more words, all BS. So Gordhan, a socialist who got Eskom to give in to the strikers last year and agree to increases that were not warranted and way above the inflation rate, a chap who has no business experience and a degree in pharmacy will lead Eskom to the promised land! Good luck working with the CEO who appears at the national press briefings like he has had to take a break from a beach party. The ANC have failed at everything they have touched but this time it will be different. Yeah right!!

Well said-Zupta CFO words. A SACP member who looked after the gupta and Zuma money for years. A great smooth talking salesman-but no substance!

It is fairly obvious by now that load shedding is a ploy to induce greater tariffs and milk the public some more.

Gordhan declared in his address on TV that the disaster at Eskom should not be used in electioneering.
So Mr communist Gordhan, which party has been solely and totally in charge of Eskom for the past 25 years?
Isn’t it the ANC that screwed up?
Of course we should vote them out of power, not only for this mess, but for all the other SOE’s that they have broken through mismanagement, corruption and cadre incompetence.
Pravin, you remind me of a marshmallow – very soft and sweet but not very good for you and much nicer when toasted.

So the plan is more of the same, only better articulated.

Begs the question why you knowitalls took 25 years to consult people who invented this “stuff” to help you run it?

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