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It won’t get better for the next 6 to 12 months – Eskom spokesperson

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Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha sent a clear message on Wednesday that the current intense load shedding – which means six to eight hours without electricity every day for all South Africans – is unlikely to improve in the next six to 12 months.

Unless Eskom improves on its current record of returning units late from maintenance, this period may be even longer, says Chris Yelland, MD of EE Business Intelligence.

On Wednesday afternoon about half of Eskom’s generating capacity was offline, with almost 5 000 megawatts (MW) out on planned maintenance and an eye-watering 19 052MW unavailable due to breakdowns.

Read:

The country started the day on Stage 3 load shedding, which was lowered to Stage 2 at 05:00 in line with an announcement the previous day.

At 06:05 Mantshantsha announced: “Due to further breakdowns and delayed returns of generating units to service, Stage 4 load shedding will be implemented from 09:00 until further notice. Eskom will publish a full statement in due course.”

This did not last long, and at 11:28 the news came: “Stage 6 load shedding will be implemented from 12:00 until further notice. This is due to a high number of breakdowns since midnight, as well as the requirement to strictly preserve the remaining emergency generation reserves. Eskom will publish a full statement in due course.”

By late afternoon on Wednesday Eskom issued a statement saying Stage 6 will continue until Friday morning at 05:00, whereafter it will be reduced to Stage 5 until Saturday morning.

Read: Shoprite, Vodacom outline the costs of keeping the lights on

Disaster risk management activation 

Following the announcement of Stage 6 the City of Cape Town, where consumers supplied by the metro are on Stage 5 thanks to the use of the Steenbras hydro pump station, announced the activation of its disaster risk management centre.

“The city is monitoring the situation, which remains precarious and could change at short notice,” the administration said in a statement.

Tshwane Mayor Randall Williams responded similarly, instructing members of his mayoral committee (MMCs) and officials to establish an electricity joint operations centre, “pulling resources together to speedily address prolonged power outages” across the city.

Read: Load shedding is not ‘normal’

Tshwane MMC for utility services Daryl Johnston said the municipal system is not designed to cope with Stage 6 load shedding.

“The heavy rains we have experienced recently also make this situation worse, with wet weather increasing the likelihood of equipment faults,” he said.

“This situation is very serious for the entire Tshwane.”

Dubious distinction …

On Wednesday night the popular load shedding app EskomSePush calculated that South Africans have been exposed to 192 720 minutes of load shedding in 2022.

“That’s 200% more than any other year,” it stated.

Eskom, power cuts, energy crisis, EskomSePush, load shedding, loadshedding

Source: EskomSePush

During an interview with 702 presenter Mandy Wiener, Mantshantsha pointed out that the three units at Eskom’s Kusile Power Station that are not in operation following the recent chimney collapse, deprive the grid of 2 100MW.

Read: Chimney collapses at Kusile power plant

The repairs are expected to take six months.

In addition, Unit 1 of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was going offline on Wednesday, also for six months, for refuelling and the replacement of its steam generators, as part of a project to extend the life of the nuclear power station by 20 years.

Read: Eskom warns of Koeberg project risk

Yelland warns that Eskom’s record of returning units on time is extremely poor.

He points out that the outage of the other Koeberg unit earlier this year was extended by months, even though the steam generator replacement was deferred. “The reactor head was replaced and when the unit was eventually restarted, it had to be taken offline again due to problems with the controlling rods.”

Yelland says Eskom has never done a steam generator replacement as contemplated at Koeberg and “we are in [uncharted] waters”.

The delays in returning units to service after maintenance are also prevalent in the coal fleet, says Yelland, for which Eskom has been criticised by energy regulator Nersa.

“Eskom says they often come across bigger problems than anticipated when they shut a unit off for maintenance and there may be some substance to that, but that does not change the fact that the outages are often longer than anticipated,” says Yelland.

He points out that the problem at Kusile stems from challenges with the flue-gas desulfurisation plant, which is also new to Eskom. It cannot be bypassed –and since three units share a chimney structure, all three are affected.

Mantshantsha pointed out that the three Kusile units and one Koeberg unit alone represent about three stages of load shedding.

Is this not a crisis?

Yelland asked why there is silence from government’s National Electricity Crisis Committee.

He tweeted:

Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer recently told journalists that the committee meets regularly every week.

But Yelland says: “It seems like the National Electricity Crisis Committee and its workstreams are following the path of other ‘War Room’ initiatives, getting bogged down in government-led bureaucratic committee meetings and talk, instead of a focus on immediate implementation actions.”



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