Eskom facing ‘big problems’ in winter

Independent energy analyst Andrew Kenny says that Eskom is facing “big problems” ahead of winter, due to a lack of generation capacity.

Reuters reported that, while Eskom says it does not expect any winter power outages, a sustained cold spell could lead to blackouts.

Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger told Reuters: “Not to say that we will have a shortage, but in the event that we did, it would be a (brief) period of shortage rather than a long period through out the day as in summer.”

In an interview with CNBC Africa, Kenny said: “We simply haven’t got enough generation capacity, it’s as simple as that.”

He said that the country should have built power stations around 1995. However, he said that because no new plants were built, the country is now suffering, laying the blame at the hands of both government, and Eskom.

He said that Eskom has had to run its power stations “flat out” and as a result, they are becoming more unreliable.

Heading into winter, Kenny said: “We are [facing] big problems”. He said the forthcoming winter would be very difficult for Eskom. He forecast that the power utility would undergo various forms of load shedding, rather than mass blackouts.

He said that it would do it in a number of ways, namely:

  • Eskom would ask people or companies to shed power – paying companies to use less electricity;
  • Eskom would reduce supply by 10%;
  • Eskom may switch off some companies’ supply.

“But the main thing is – Eskom says, listen, don’t invest in any industry that is going to use a lot of electricity, because it won’t be able to provide it,” Kenny said.

Eskom has come under scrutiny again after it implemented load-shedding in early March following days of heavy rain which left its coal stocks wet.

The company said at that the time that it is facing its most serious power emergency since 2008.

“The power system remains tight and is vulnerable to any changes going into winter, and will remain so for the next few years until the build programme is completed,” Eskom said.

In a note on Monday, Eskom said that its system is “expected to be constrained for the foreseeable future”.

“The electricity demand profile is changing as we move into winter – with fairly pleasant weather during the day which sets into cold evenings once the sun goes down.”

“As a result, the demand for electricity picks up rapidly as we move into the evening when residential customers arrive home from work and switch on stoves, heaters and more lighting is used because it gets darker earlier,” it said.

“Eskom continues with its planned maintenance schedule and is scaling it down to prepare for winter while also managing unplanned outages that add more pressure to an already tight system,” the group said.

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Eskom facing ‘big problems’ in winter