Eskom in deep trouble

Eskom is in deep trouble with an ageing power generation fleet breaking down regularly and the power utility unable to keep the lights on.

On Wednesday, Eskom announced that it would implement Stage 4 load-shedding from Wednesday to Friday.

The additional load-shedding was needed after units at the Medupi, Kusile, and Matla power stations tripped while a unit each at Lethabo and Arnot power stations were forced to shut down.

Total breakdowns yesterday amounted to 14,957MW, while planned maintenance meant 5,301MW of capacity was not available.

Despite South Africa being dumped into darkness because nearly half of Eskom’s installed capacity is unavailable, the power utility downplayed the seriousness of the situation.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the implementation of stage 4 load-shedding is no cause for alarm as the power system “remains to be effectively controlled”.

Energy expert Chris Yelland disagrees. “There is every reason to be deeply concerned about the state of the power system in South Africa,” he said.

“Eskom’s old plants are getting older, the new plants are behaving like old plants, and new generation capacity is not coming on-stream fast enough.”

Chris Yelland
Energy expert Chris Yelland

Yelland said that since the resource plan for electricity was published in October 2019, not a single kilowatt of additional generation capacity has come onto the grid.

While Eskom is not responsible for procuring additional electricity, it still faces many problems it needs to address.

These problems include design defects at its Medupi and Kusile power stations and maintenance on older power stations.

“Increased maintenance and switching off generators to fix design problems means that generation capacity is not available to meet the country’s electricity demand,” Yelland said.

Eskom’s management also seems to be out of touch about the problems at its coal-fired generation fleet.

The company promised the country that load-shedding would improve from September 2021, but the inverse happened.

South African households and businesses had to endure the worst load-shedding ever during an October period.

There is no sign that Eskom improved the reliability of its power generation system, which seems to be more vulnerable than before.

The chart below shows the days with load-shedding in October from 2007 to 2021.

Now read: How much it costs to escape Eskom and load-shedding — for good

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Eskom in deep trouble