Why Eskom is missing its targets

 ·8 Apr 2024

Minister of electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says Eskom’s low energy availability (EAF) numbers are a trade-off the utility has made to ensure a stable grid heading into winter.

Responding to at least two parliamentary Q&As about Eskom’s EAF this past week, Ramokgopa dismissed any notions that the national power utility was in decline, saying that its operations were improving.

Addressing the low EAF specifically, however, the minister said that if Eskom reduced its critically important maintenance programme by between 25% and 50%, energy availability would be closer to the 65% target set for March 2024.

“Although heightened maintenance negatively impacted the EAF, it remains a necessary trade-off, as the deliberate spike in planned maintenance is intended to improve the generation fleet’s reliability to deliver long-term benefits and ensure the security of the energy supply is restored.

“Not only has the plan started to yield desirable results as far as EAF is concerned, but the Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (breakdowns) has also taken a positive turn from 34% of the generation capacity in January 2023 to 30% in January 2024,” he said.

If Eskom cut maintenance, it also would have been completely load-shedding free between September 2023 and February 2024, he said. The spike to stage 6 load shedding in February was shrugged off as an “outlier”.

“Based on linear modelling undertaken by the Ministry, had Planned Maintenance been reduced by 25%-50% from September 2023 to February 2024, Load shedding could have been wholly averted for this period, and consequently, a much improved EAF performance could have been reported; edging annualised EAF performance closer to the planned 65% target to March 2023,” the minister said,

“However, this would have left the system vulnerable and weaker going into winter 2024.”

In the coming weeks and months, Ramokgopa said that maintenance would be reduced further to make room for additional capacity in winter.

Maintenance has already been cut from around 8,000MW at the start of the year to 5,000MW in April, and will be cut further to around 4,000MW in May – giving an additional 4,000MW to the grid (equivalent of 4 stages of load shedding).

In addition, the minister said that Medupi Unit 4 will return to service in August 2024, adding another 800MW to the grid, followed by Koeberg Unit 2 (980 MW) in September.

“Further, Kusile Unit 6 (800 MW) will be synchronised to the grid in December 2024, adding up to 2,300 MW of additional capacity during the year,” he said.

“These will similarly improve EAF performance (year on year). Coupled with the expected improved performance (or reduced failure rate) due to the aggressive maintenance programme, all indications are that we are on track to achieve the planned target (70% EAF) for March 2025.”

Read: New load shedding stages for South Africa – the big changes, and the big problems

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