Eskom under siege

Fraud, theft, corruption, incompetence, and employee negligence have hobbled Eskom’s coal-fired electricity generation fleet.

Eskom implemented Stage 2 load-shedding on Friday morning with less than an hour’s notice, which was quickly upgraded to Stage 4 as close to 22,000MW of Eskom’s generating capacity was unavailable.

“It’s massive. I haven’t seen such figures in a long time,” the City Press quoted Eskom head of maintenance Paula Goatley as saying.

Goatley’s exclamation came during a media visit to Lethabo power station on Tuesday when Eskom implemented stage 2 load-shedding after unplanned breakdowns neared 18,000MW.

According to Goatley, the situation at Eskom is the worst it has been in years.

Senior economist PwC Christie Viljoen told City Press that rotational power cuts have resulted in the loss of more than a million jobs over the past three years.

The costs associated with powering businesses through load-shedding caused many to collapse.

In addition, fewer people want to invest in new businesses or expansions during times of uncertainty, resulting in significant job losses.

According to recent data from the CSIR, 2021 has seen the worst levels of load-shedding since the outages first started in 2008.

With three months to go, Eskom has already shed over 100MWh more electricity than in 2020, which was the previous worst year and De Ruyter’s first at the helm of Eskom.

Load-shedding late last week was caused by a breakdown of one unit at Eskom’s Tutuka power station and Kendall power station’s inability to generate power due to a broken coal conveyor.

Units at Lethabo and Majuba are also unable to generate power due to delayed maintenance.

Load-shedding was also implemented during the previous week due to a lack of more than 20,000MW of generating capacity.

André de Ruyter, CEO at Eskom, conceded that power cuts had been implemented in the build-up to the municipal elections on Monday, 1 November, to ensure that power outages would not disrupt the voting process.

Lethabo power station

According to Chris Yelland, the managing director at EE Business Intelligence, the current situation at the power utility is “as bad as it gets”.

Yelland added that he did not expect Eskom’s generation capacity to improve any time soon.

“What worries me is that one of Koeberg’s units will have to be taken off-line for five months in January,” he said.

The unit will be taken off-line to replace the generator, with the intention of extending the life of the power station by 20 years.

“When that unit is returned to service, it will be the turn of the other one. This means that generating capacity of about 900MW won’t be available for most of next year,” Yelland said.

André de Ruyter previously said that load-shedding was the result of employee negligence.

“You can buy all the right machines and fix everything that’s broken, but if the people are negligent, it remains a problem,” he said.

In addition to employee maintenance, corruption and theft at the Tutuka power station have resulted in the loss of potentially over a billion rands’ spares and fuel oil.

Two Eskom employees and one supplier were arrested for the disappearance of spares and non-delivery of oil at the power station following an internal investigation.

Eskom said that more arrests are expected.

Now read: What happens if the Eskom grid collapses

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Eskom under siege