Eskom has announced that there will be no planned load shedding on Monday – but warned that the system remains strained.
“No load shedding will be required today as some generating units have been brought back on stream from maintenance, in addition to the topping-up of diesel tanks and water reservoirs for pumped storage stations,” said spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe.
“The System Operator has warned though that the power system remains vulnerable and that the current status might be reviewed should the grid become constrained due to plant breakdowns. Please use electricity sparingly to reduce pressure on the national grid.”
In an interview with eNCA, Phasiwe cited inadequate maintenance at power stations as the main cause for the most recent spell of load shedding.
“We are starting from a very low base. In terms of how things should be standing as a company, our energy availability should be 80%. As things currently stand we are at 66%. That’s very low – it’s even lower than 2014 when we had load shedding, when it was at 69%,” he said.
While coal is reportedly part of the problem, he said that it isn’t directly to blame for load shedding, adding that it remains a concern, with some power stations running a 10 day supply – well below the required minimum.
According to a report by the City Press, citing internal documents, Eskom had been largely underplaying how bad the power situation is.
In 2014/15 – that last time rotational blackouts were in full-swing – Eskom’s grid had lost 15,500MW of power. With the current issues, over 17,370MW has been taken offline in the past week.
This is due to not only scheduled maintenance, but also unit failures at 12 of the group’s biggest and most important power stations – along with faults in lines bringing in power from hydro plants, and a lack up sufficient funding to buy the diesel necessary to make up for the losses.
Phasiwe said that Eskom will spend R11 billion in the next year to tackle the maintenance issues, but even this may not be enough.
According to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, while Eskom hopes to have the current crisis under control in early 2019, Eskom’s maintenance schedule will take up to 2021 to complete.
This, while the company’s finances continue to spiral, with debt expected to rise to R600 billion in the same time frame.
Eskom has reportedly turned to government, asking that R100 billion of its debt be taken off its books and absorbed by the national government. Meanwhile, the group is seeking three years of 15% increases in tariffs, which could see South Africans paying double for electricity by the time the repairs are done.
Despite the power utility being plundered through irregular and wasteful spending over the last decade due to corruption, mismanagement and fraud, the current board believes that it’s up to all South Africans to take responsibility for the mess.
Phasiwe said that Eskom management has a 9-point plan to take control of the situation, but warned that it will not be a fast process, with no quick fixes.
“We have a very long way to go,” Phasiwe said. “It’s going to be very tough, and very expensive…by March 2019 the coal situation should be correct – but for everything else we’re going to need at least 12 months to self-correct.”