Eskom in dire straits: Maintenance lags as utility overspends on emergency diesel

Key staff suspended following power station neglect.
Emissions rise from the cooling towers of the Eskom Matla coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga. Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Eskom has suspended several key people at its Tutuka power station and is even expecting arrests due to the “shocking state of neglect” that has largely contributed to the low availability of its power stations.

This, together with three major incidents – one every month since August – has contributed to the load shedding every night since Saturday and which is set to continue until Tuesday.

This was revealed at Eskom’s quarterly system update where Eskom executives showed a brave face in light of a further deterioration in plant performance and a worrying outlook.

Read the latest on Eskom and load shedding here.

In the absence of its CEO Andre de Ruyter, who is in Europe for the Cop26 climate conference, Eskom’s COO Jan Oberholzer admitted that it is taking longer for the “reliability maintenance” announced early last year, to show results.

Oberholzer repeatedly apologised for the current and recent load shedding.

On Sunday the plant availability was at a mere 58.5% against a target of 70%. The average so far for the current financial year is 65.3%, which compares poorly with the previous year’s 67.9%.

In the meantime the utility is using its diesel-gobbling open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) extensively to keep the lights (mostly) on. According to Eskom group executive for generation Phillip Dukashe the utility has so far this year produced 772 GWh with its own OCGTs, against a provision for the full year of 211GWh.  It indicates a load factor of 7.3% at year-end against a target of 1%.

Listen to or read the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb interview with Phillip Dukashe:

So far the OCGT bill is at R2.5 billion. This makes it increasingly difficult for the cash-strapped SOE to make money available for maintenance, he explained.

Accordingly, the generation performance is rapidly deteriorating.

So far this year Eskom has experienced 342 unit trips against a target of 196, 4 612MW of load losses against a target of 3 969MW and 23.1% unplanned load losses against a target of 18%, Oberholzer said.

Dukashe said he was shocked when a new power station manager, appointed in February, recently took him on a tour of Tutuka, situated near Standerton. “I used to work at Tutuka. I could not believe the shocking state it is in,” he said.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha added that all six units at Tutuka, each with a capacity of 609MW, were in operation two weeks ago “for the first time since 2019”.

Dukashe showed that Tutuka has been the single biggest contributor to unplanned breakages so far this year.

Station Contribution to Total UCLF

F2022 30 September YTD –23.14%

Source: Eskom

The three major incidents have jointly further reduced the available generation capacity by more than 2 000MW.

These are:

  • An explosion at Medupi unit 4 (720 MW) on August 8, just a week after the whole power station was completed and finally handed over. A preliminary investigation report has been submitted showing Eskom staff deviated from prescribed procedures. The generator, turbine and auxiliary plant were damaged and the unit could be offline for as long as two years.
  • A fire at Kendal Unit 1 (640 MW) on September 11 resulted in damage to the civil structure. It is expected to return to service by December. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, but Eskom is looking into possible design defects.
  • On October 24 Koeberg unit 1 (920MW) tripped for the second time after returning to service on September 3 following a 75 day outage. Oberholzer gave the assurance that there is no nuclear danger, but added that Eskom is “extremely concerned why there have been two trips on Unit 1 after a very long outage”.

In the meantime the maintenance programme punted to reduce load shedding is lagging.

Dukashe explained severe challenges to the reliability maintenance programme that is aimed at correcting years of neglect and over-utilisation of the generation fleet.

Of the 84 outages scheduled for the year ending March 31 only 18 have been completed and a further nine are in progress. Another 22 have been deferred to later in this financial year, and ten to the next financial year which leaves 25 remaining.

Source: Eskom

He explained that proper planning before a major outage is crucial. Some spares must be ordered 24 months in advance. If the budget is not available or the release of the money to the generation unit is delayed it impacts not only the specific unit, but also the whole maintenance programme.

Eskom has budgeted R8.5 billion in the current financial year for running maintenance and a further R8 billion for outages.

Oberholzer said this must be seen against the backdrop of Eskom’s R400 billion debt burden which has left it with huge interest payments and a liquidity crisis. The CFO Calib Cassim therefore has to carefully assess competing demands when allocating cash.

Dukashe further complained that procurement processes are hampering the maintenance programme as key long-term contracts have not yet been concluded but are carried on a month-to-month basis. He also said leadership at power station level is often lacking. Eskom has lost a lot of key skilled staff members and the necessary “vigilance and urgency” is often lacking.

Oberholzer confirmed that not enough progress has been made in improving Eskom’s procurement processes.

According to Dukashe the generation fleet is still unreliable and unpredictable.

This is mainly addressed by mini-overhauls and general overhauls.

It will take another three years before these have been completed at all the coal-fired power stations.


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“Eskom has suspended several key people at its Tutuka power station and is even expecting arrests due to the “shocking state of neglect”

Suspended, expecting arrests? What we want to hear is fired, convicted, jailed. The time for the naughty corner is long over.

Shouldn’t Eskom be lending money to the large banks to re-lend to their clients to enable as many as possible to switch over to solar, ASAP? Eskom seems to be broken beyond repair.

correct. This article is implying that ESKOM is on the brink of an imminent catastrophic collapse!

Comment removed

the same here Moneyweb working overtime in the dark to keep the moral of SA up..

Here was my removed comment – proof that liberation was successful and that power creation has been decolonised. How is that offensive as its true?

You are terminally stupid to gorge yourselves on you emergency rations in the start of a famine.
That is exactly what these guys are doing !!!!
Can only be ANC !!

And this will continue until there is NOTHING left… in Zim when people were starving their politicians were gorging on the small leftovers of the economy stealing anything they could.

Eskom is a microcosm of the government – a failure to do future planning, a lack of fixing things before they become a disaster. SoE’s across the country under the control of the current government are an abomination and an utter embarrassment to South African citizens

Yet another great achievement, brought to all of us by the Corrupt ANC. Although it would be the death of S.A. industry, it may actually be better if Eskam collapses/implodes and we “get it over with”.

Then perhaps a new electricity supplier arises from the ashes!

Gorging on emergency rations at the start of a famine.
Staggering logic !!

The CEO is neglecting his position. He shouldn’t be traveling to Europe, while Eskom is struggling to function.

He should have attended Cop26 via Zoom or teams.

Agree 100%. I also assume our honoured pres CR won’t be going to Davos with is retinue this year for the same reason.

Step up and step in to take over Eksdom you Fraud — It cannot get worse – or can it??

The fruits of years of bad leadership and corruption. Well done for weeding out bad eggs at Tutuka. In China they would be executed.

Will the private sector step up to provide capacity that is affordable? 100 MW in every town will soon provide stability. This will provide gainful employment to people giving them pride that they are contributing to their communities. Also paves the way for bypassing failed municipalities.

I see some saying that Escom dying would be good as it will allow a new supplier to emerge. I would like to know from them, why they think that a new electricity provider will be any different from Escom, if it is going to be subject to all the legislation and criminality which placed Escom into the position it currently is?

(I don’t like this Eskom acronym, it somehow drags Evkom, which was a world-class energy supplier, into this pig’s pool we currently have with Escom)?

I am my own energy provider and I assure you I do better than those clowns.
PS – I am writing this during a loadshedding session !!

Since 1994 this has been going on, not secretly, but with many experienced engineers urging them to take action.

Thick skinned???? or just orchestrated looting and sabotage.

I an sure that come Wednesday this week the evil ANC will be crowing from the dung heaps how they “fixed” it for the masses.

Sounds like very poor management or wrong people for the job?

Why are we paying people for NOT doing their jobs? Someone must be FIRED!

My comment “moderated” yet again?

Close all but one bank accounts and employ 6 or 20 CA’s to vet every payment ?

In 2010 Botswana built 2 90MW power stations that runs on diesel.

Guess what???

They NEVER use them as they say diesel is too expensive. Cheaper to import electricity from SA via Eskom that charge them extremely low rates. The tax payer pays to generate power for them using diesel this side???

Now tell me SA is not run by a bunch of idiots????


Zim also imports from us and I doubt they pay anything. Not to mention all the free power we provide in our own country.

SA generating free electricity for millions since 1994.

An extensive investigation needs to be conducted into whether Eskom infrastructure is being sabotaged whether by political motives or by the looters. The same can apply to PRASA.

All the investigations and committees in the world and no action — That is the SA way !!

The Eskom story is the same over and over, we apologise, we did not know that one must do maintenance and now we have to catch up. The funds we allocated to maintenance is now however being used to pay for Diesel. This is getting boring, when will somebody step up to the plate and admit we actually have no control over whatever is going on at the utility. Mid merit plants used as baseload etc. etc. The only solution is to accelerate the roll out of the IPP programmes, however even this is dragging on, court cases allegations and whatever else, however in the mean time while discussions are ongoing whatever this means, the economy is being ripped to shreds.The position is dire, imagine the ramifications of a total grid implosion, then we will truely be in the dark ages.

They still have fools running power stations. Management 101. Don’t put idiots in charge.

But guess whose in charge of the whole country?

LOL, he repeatedly apologized….oh well, its all good then.!

Only the damn ANC did this to us. Just the ANC.

Everyone complained at the power ships 20 year contract. Eskom is being driven into the ground so once in place the power ships will never leave. Therefore whether the term of the contract was 5, 10, 20 or 50 years is irrelevant.

Eskom is in dire straits due to the effects of ANC corruption, mismanagement and Procurement policy, BEE, to be precise.

Diesel is procured through an ANC BEE front, a lawyer, even though all the petroleum companies have BEE.

The problem is the ANC.

At the Zondo commision Cyril admitted that the ANC deployment committee made the BEE appointments. Charge him and the useless cANCer with economic sabotage

Absolutely. We have an ANC problem not just a Zuma problem

ha! So Eskom is paying R3.23 for their diesel peakers and feeling sorry for themselves.

Welcome to my world Eskom. I always pay about that for my electricity (availability plus energy fees divided by kWh)

I think we should start discussing that grid kVA charges are levied per hour that the grid is actually available.

End of comments.




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