Eskom’s sums don’t add up: energy expert

Eskom’s sums do not add up, energy expert Chris Yelland said on Wednesday, after he was slammed by the power utility’s acting CEO Brian Molefe for being “sceptical” and offering “no constructive analysis”.

The EE Publishers MD told Fin24 that Molefe’s “little fit of pique” was a plot to avoid his question, which focused on the seconded Transnet CEO’s aim to take off 5 500 MW of electricity off the grid for planned maintenance during winter.

Molefe said that while Eskom has 43.5 GW capacity, during winter the demand is around 35 GW and it needs a further 1.5 GW as reserve margin. Eskom usually conducts very little planned maintenance during winter due to the tight margins, but Molefe tripled this to 5 500 MW to speed up the backlog of the ageing plants. This leaves only 2 GW for unplanned maintenance.

“Eskom is experiencing unplanned breakdowns much higher than 2 GW,” said Yelland. “The bottom line is that the figures Mr Molefe presented just don’t add up. I asked him this question during the presentation and he just didn’t answer it.”

Molefe told Yelland that his maintenance without load shedding scheme was a “theoretical presentation of how we can do maintenance without load shedding and was conceptual”.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 that the 5 500 MW of planned maintenance was an aspirational figure and said that total maintenance would not exceed 7 GW. He said this week’s unplanned maintenance and breakdowns accounted for 4 500 MW of power off the grid, meaning only around 2 500 MW would be spared for planned maintenance this week.

“Mr Molefe was explaining a way forward for Eskom, where we will aim to have 5 500 MW of planned maintenance, but this will not exceed the total 7 000 MW that Eskom is limited to during winter at this stage.”

Maintenance drive

Molefe said in a statement on Wednesday that “the focus of our maintenance drive is to ensure long-term reliability and sustainability of our power generating plants. “Since December last year, the availability of Eskom’s plant performance has improved from 65% to 75%. Going forward, we plan to continue with our maintenance programme in an effort to reduce the backlog that has accumulated over the past few years. Most importantly, we plan to execute the maintenance drive without having to implement load shedding.”

Eskom said that more than 64% of its power stations were in their mid-life and required more preventative maintenance in order to improve their performance and ensure their safety.

“However, over the past few years a backlog of maintenance outages has developed, and Eskom has identified it as a priority to reduce the backlog as well as keep up with the maintenance schedule.

“As has been the case since winter of 2013, some generation maintenance will continue to be done throughout the winter period to assist in ensuring a sustainable generation fleet.”

Aim to have more time for maintenance

“This is in line with the company’s vision of achieving an 80% plant availability, 10% planned maintenance and 10% unplanned maintenance in the next three years,” Eskom said. “The adherence to philosophy maintenance (regular scheduled maintenance) is set to limit unplanned maintenance below 7 500 MW in summer and below 5 500 MW in winter.

“While there is expected to be sufficient power supply to meet demand for most part of the day, in winter the load increase could be up to 36 000 MW particularly over the short sharp evening peak between 17:30 and 18:30. The increase is predominantly due to the use of electric heaters, geysers and cooking that takes place during this time.

“Independent Power Producers continue to play an important role contributing about 1 827 MW to the grid at a time when the power system is constrained. Renewable energy contributed about 1 300 MW during the day, of which 800 MW was from solar and 500 MW from wind.”

R280bn capital expenditure programme

“In an effort to ensure that Eskom will be able to meet future electricity requirements, the company is currently undertaking a R280bn capital expenditure programme over five years, and building two of the biggest coal-fired power plants in Africa,” Eskom explained. “Since 2001 we added 32 generating units increasing a number of current units to 121.

“Eskom plans to bring on stream units 3 and 4 of the Ingula pumped storage facility between January and March 2016 respectively. In total, over 1 500 MW new generating capacity will be added to the national grid by the end of this current financial year.

“In the new 5 years Eskom will add over 17 000 MW of new capacity to the national grid; 9 756 km of new transmission lines and 42 470 MVA of transmission strengthening. To date over 6 238 MW of new capacity has already been added and 5 814 km of transmission lines and 29 655 MVA have been installed.

“Moreover, Medupi Unit 6 was successfully synchronised to the national power grid for the first time on Monday, 2 March 2015, and is currently being progressively tested and optimised to enable it to join the Eskom Generation fleet as a significant contributor to the country’s constrained power supply. Unit 6 currently produces 800 MW into the national grid.

“Medupi consists of six units of approximately 800 MW each, for a grand total of 4 800 MW, which is 12% of Eskom’s total installed capacity. Eskom is pulling out all stops to ensure that the completion of the remaining five units is not hampered by technical or labour issues.

“The 100 MW Sere Wind Farm near Vredendal in the Western Cape came into full commercial operation on 31 March 2015. The achievement of this milestone is in line with the commitments made by Eskom in terms of both time and cost and the result of successful interaction between Eskom and our contractors.”

Source: Fin24

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Eskom’s sums don’t add up: energy expert