Eskom ‘clarifies’ stage 13 load shedding warning for South Africa

 ·12 Mar 2024

A report by German consultancy group VGBE Energy warned that Eskom needs to repair and upgrade its water treatment plants urgently or face losing over 13,000MW – the equivalent of 13 stages of load shedding – from the grid.

But Eskom says there are inaccuracies in their report.

The stage 13 load shedding warning came from a report that the National Treasury commissioned to analyse the performance of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants and recommend how they can be improved.

A team of German engineers with expertise in running coal-fired power plants studied South Africa’s struggling power utility, Eskom, for four and a half months.

The team was particularly concerned about the poor state of Eskom’s water treatment plants, especially at some of its largest power stations.

According to the report, Medupi and Matimba power stations rely on a shared raw water treatment plant, which is currently in a state of disrepair and unable to supply both stations at full capacity.

The engineers noted that this plant urgently needs maintenance and upgrading. If the necessary repairs are not carried out and the plant fails, it could shut down 12 units with a total capacity of 9,800 MW.

Moreover, the current water supply is insufficient to install the wet flue gas desulfurisation plant that needs to be built for the Medupi and Matimba sites by 2025.

The water treatment plant at Kendal is also in poor condition and needs urgent maintenance and refurbishment. If that plant fails, six units – 3,840 MW of capacity– would be offline.

This means that if these ailing water treatment plants fail, 13,640 MW of generation would go offline – resulting in a record high stage 13 load-shedding in South Africa.

Eskom’s response

In response to the report, Eskom told News24 and BusinessLive that some aspects of the findings are inaccurate.

Eric Shunmagum, a senior manager in the Group Executive Generation Office of Eskom, told the publications that the state-owned power utility does not agree with all of the report’s findings.

He said that while Eskom engaged with VGBE and embraced the report, it needed to correct these inaccuracies.

The report said that immediate maintenance is required to the raw water treatment plant, shared by Medupi and Matimba power stations, to prevent a potential catastrophic failure.

However, Shunmagum noted that the Medupi and Matimba power stations did not have a shared water treatment plant.

Additionally, he was not aware of any critical maintenance work required for their water treatment plants that could cause a risk of shutdown for the power stations.

He added that many of the issues in the report were already being addressed.

The report reflects Eskom’s operational situation between March and May 2023. The utility implemented a new energy plan, which included a significant increase in planned maintenance after the report was delivered in September 2023.

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