Power utility Eskom says it does not expect the explosion at Medupi unit 4 in early August to impact its improved outlook for load-shedding in the coming months.
The company acknowledged that the loss of Medupi was a significant setback in its maintenance plans.
“While Eskom is currently able to generate power sufficient to meet demand, the loss of the 720MW from Medupi is a great negative,” the utility stated.
Despite this, Eskom said the occurrence of load-shedding should be significantly reduced from this month.
In October 2020, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said the benefits of intensified reliability maintenance would begin to be felt in April 2021, while the risk of load-shedding would be significantly reduced from September 2021.
The utility has now told MyBroadband the expectation for reduced load-shedding remains because of the work being done to increase available generation capacity through the maintenance programme.
However, it warned that this does not mean there will be no load-shedding, as additional generation capacity is required to eliminate the loathed rotational power cuts completely.
“The current supply generation capacity deficit is just over 4,000MW,” Eskom said.
Eskom added that investigations into the cause of the damage at Medupi unit 4 would assist in determining the extent of the damage and the cost and time to repair.
De Ruyter previously said replacing the generator could cost between R1.5-R2 billion and take two years.
Eskom’s generation fleet recently also took a hit at the Kendal Power Station, where a fire damaged Unit 1’s generator transformer and resulted in the shutdown of Unit 2 and Unit 3.
In an update on Monday morning, the utility said that the two adjacent units would be returned to service early this week, while Unit 1 will be returned to service during November 2021.
Although Eskom will be increasing diesel consumption to make up for the loss of generation, it said it does not expect it will have to implement load-shedding as a result of the incident.
The news of an improved outlook will come as a great relief to South African households and businesses that have been hit by significant load-shedding.
The CSIR’s half-year update of its statistics on utility-scale power generation revealed that Eskom had already implemented 76% of the total amount of load-shedding of 2020 in the first six months of 2021.
The CSIR said the severe load-shedding was primarily caused by the existing coal fleet’s declining energy availability factor (EAF).
The EAF was 61.3% for the first half of 2021, lower than the 65% EAF in 2020 and 66.9% in 2019.
However, Eskom’s latest weekly system status report shows this has improved over the last few weeks, peaking at 69.81% in week 29 (19 July to 25 July). By week 35 (30 August to 5 September), the average had increased to 63.13%.
Eskom’s three-month generation shortage forecast clearly shows how the situation has improved from the same time last year.
In the next 14 weeks, Eskom’s “planned risk level”, which assumes planned and unplanned outages of 14,200MW, anticipates a possible shortage of less than 1,000MW for 9 weeks and sufficient generation capacity to meet demand in the remaining 5 weeks.
For the same period in 2020, it anticipated 1 week of shortages exceeding 2,001MW, 10 weeks of shortages between 1,001MW and 2,000MW and 3 weeks of shortages less than 1,000MW.
Under the more severe “likely risk scenario”, which adds a further 2,000MW of unplanned outages, 5 out of the 14 weeks are expected to experience shortages of between 1,001MW and 2,000MW, while the remaining 9 could have shortages exceeding 2,001MW.
While this clearly does not rule out load-shedding, it is much better than in 2020, when all of the weeks had likely risk scenarios in which shortages would exceed 2,001MW.
The differences between the three-month outlooks of weeks 36 to 49 of 2020 and 2021 are shown in the tables below.
3-month outlook – Week 35 of 2020
3-month outlook – Week 35 of 2021