Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter has warned South Africans to expect an increase in load-shedding as the power utility attempts to maintain its infrastructure.
Speaking at a media briefing on Friday, De Ruyter said that instead of continuing to defer maintenance, Eskom is now actively working on maintaining its power stations.
Conducting scheduled maintenance on these generation units will, unfortunately, result in more load-shedding going forward, he said.
“We intend to return to the cycle of maintaining our plant as per the equipment manufacturer’s guidelines,” De Ruyter said.
“In the past, we neglected to perform scheduled maintenance as required, and those legacies are coming home and are causing us to have unreliable equipment.”
“This will cause us to have an increased probability of load-shedding over the medium-term as we fix the system,” he added.
This follows stage 2 load-shedding being scheduled for the whole weekend – from 09:00 on Friday 31 January to 06:00 on Monday 2 February.
De Ruyter apologised for the inconvenience caused by load-shedding but said that Eskom needs to and can be fixed.
“If I didn’t believe this could be done, I wouldn’t be standing before you today,” he said.
No maintenance for years
Eskom has historically neglected to maintain its coal power stations in order to maintain a high energy availability factor (EAF), according to NECSA Chair and retired Eskom chief nuclear officer Dave Nicholls.
The power utility’s EAF dropped from above 90% in the mid-1990s to below 65% in 2019. This decline was mostly attributed to a lack of maintenance and the effect of breakdowns at ageing power stations.
“We ran a coal fleet like a series of kombi taxis, but we reached a high EAF,” he said.
Eskom sends out emergency generation orders when the grid is in danger of being overloaded, and these have significantly increased in frequency over the years, further reducing the ability to conduct maintenance.
These orders require power plants to continue functioning no matter what to prevent a power generation crisis.
“By the time we reached 2007, we had an emergency generation order every working day,” he said.
Eskom’s plan to restore the stability of its infrastructure will result in an increased risk of load-shedding over the next 18 months, the company said on Twitter.
— Eskom Hld SOC Ltd (@Eskom_SA) January 31, 2020