A delay in completing maintenance at Eskom’s sole nuclear power station is worrying as South Africa heads into winter, when electricity demand increases, according to Alan Winde, premier of the Western Cape province.
Work on the Koeberg plant north of Cape Town has stalled and is running weeks late, adding to energy shortages that have led to daily power cuts to protect the system from a complete blackout.
“We can’t be behind right now,” Winde said. “We’ve got to be on time, on budget.”
The premier met last weekend with South African Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who mentioned that a foreign investor has expressed interest in establishing a 3,000-megawatt gas-fired plant in the Western Cape.
The proposal is still at an early stage, and if it goes ahead, fuel could possibly be brought to the plant site via a pipeline from Saldanha Bay, 155 kilometres north of Cape Town, Winde said in a telephone interview.
Analysis earlier this month from Virtual Energy and Power director Clyde Mallinson showed that South Africans are in store for a cold, dark winter, warning that Eskom must lift the coal fleet’s capacity factor (CF) to at least 50% to prevent high levels of load-shedding over the winter months.
If the power utility is unable to do so, the country will likely see upwards of stage 6 load shedding during peak winter in June.
The analyst pointed out the Eskom’s coal fleet managed to only operate at 40% CF in February – if this was the same in June, load shedding would have to be pushed up to stage 11, a level that does not yet exist on the available schedules.
Eskom is currently working with Nersa to determine new load shedding schedules.
Troubles at Eskom
Meanwhile, Eskom’s woes with criminality continue.
The embattled power utility said that seven assailants fired multiple shots at an Eskom employee’s car on March 16 and then abducted him.
The employee was later released south of Johannesburg and admitted to the hospital for treatment. The police are investigating the incident.
The act of violence was just one on a long list of incidents of criminality at the group, which includes reported cases of corruption, theft and threats of violence – many of which are still under investigation.
Ramokgopa, meanwhile, has downplayed talk of corruption being at the root of Eskom’s problems, drawing the ire of South Africans at large.
During his tour of Eskom’s power station fleet over the past week, he said that corruption wasn’t the cause of Eskom’s woes but rather that the company was struggling with technicalities and breakdowns.
The biggest labour union at Eskom disputed the claim, however.
“We are categorically and emphatically disagreeing with the minister’s version that corruption in Eskom does not play any role” in persistent electricity shortages, the National Union of Mineworkers, said in a statement.
The union alleged that plant breakdowns can be attributed to the use of low-quality parts that are being purchased at over-inflated prices with the help of some Eskom employees.
Eskom itself has reported on cases of corruption and sabotage by contract workers, while the Special Investigating Unit and the Hawks have many ongoing cases related to this, making the minister’s claims patently false.
Eskom resumed load shedding this week after suspending rotational blackouts briefly on Sunday.
Load shedding is currently rotating between stage 1 and stage 2 during the day (05h00 to 16h00) and evening (16h00 to 05h00), respectively, until further notice.