Big shift at Eskom’s worst-performing power station

 ·24 Dec 2023

The new general manager of the Tutuka Power Stations says that things are slowly improving at what was earlier dubbed the worst-performing station in the fleet.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, the GM, Bruce Moyo, mentioned improvements at the plant, although things were far from where they needed to be.

According to Moyo, when his team took over operations at the plant earlier this year, it had an energy availability factor of only 6%, and the amount of neglect was “staggering”.

Since then, EAF has improved, and at one point, the station had four units online and operating – although only two are operating currently.

Despite the setbacks, workers are increasingly motivated and set on making the plant work – a significant shift from the atmosphere a year ago.

Tutuka made headlines earlier this year when former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter told the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) of the problems that had beset the station.

He told the committee that criminality was rife in the area (Standerton, Mpumalanga) and that the station itself was besieged by criminal elements.

“The station’s manager has to wear a bulletproof vest when walking the stations and is accompanied by two bodyguards. His wife has bodyguards, and his children go to school with bodyguards – all as a result of threats being made on his life,” de Ruyter said at the time.

According to Moyo, unlike his predecessor, he does not wear a bulletproof vest to work – an indication that relations have improved.

However, he keeps his family’s location under wraps and prefers that it is not known by anyone working at the station – an indication that security worries persist.

Tutuka was identified alongside five other stations this year as being “problem” stations. The others included Duva, Mejuba, Kusile, Matla and Kendal.

Moyo has previous experience with Duva and Kendal, which reportedly formed part of a cluster where he and his team helped with recovery efforts (the other being Camden).

Eskom has spent much of 2023 on these recovery efforts at many of its stations. Kusile has seen some significant success, its downed units coming back online in the latter months of the year, helping to ease the capacity burden on the grid.

This has resulted in a slight recovery in the group’s overall EAF.

The energy availability factor shows the percentage of time the power station was available for use when it was needed. It is a core measure of performance.

If the EAF can be improved to around 70%, load-shedding will be a thing of the past, and South Africa will have electricity security.

Despite the improvements, the power utility’s goal of hitting 65% EAF by March 2024 is still way off. In fact, the group has not successfully consistently hit the 60% EAF target set for March 2023.

The group had come the closest to achieving this target in October when EAF breached the 60% level – but this was incredibly short-lived.

The latest data compiled by independent energy analyst Pieter Jordaan shows that the power company is struggling to get further than an EAF of 55%.

Read: Eskom criminal cartels buying influence, immunity – and can even direct policy: De Ruyter

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