Eskom is falling apart

Eskom has no money for spares to fix power stations, breakdowns are at an all-time high, its energy availability factor (EAF) is the worst in history, and staff morale has hit rock bottom.

Energy analyst Mike Rossouw said 2021 had been the worst year ever regarding Eskom’s power plant availability.

“This year, Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) is around 50%. It has never been this low,” Rossouw said in an ENCA interview.

He highlighted that ten years ago, there was a plan to return Eskom’s fleet to an 80% EAF, but this did not happen.

Breakdowns continue to increase while Eskom is not hitting its planned maintenance target. It means the generation fleet is getting worse and worse.

Energy expert Chris Yelland said the new power plants, which were supposed to resolve South Africa’s load-shedding crisis, performed poorly.

The Medupi power station has an energy availability factor of around 60%, while Kusile is even lower at around 30%.

He added that one generation unit at Medupi has been destroyed in an explosion and cannot be repaired. It will take years to replace the whole unit.

“These new plants are therefore performing like old plants and are not helping to increase Eskom’s energy availability factor,” he said.

Damage at Medupi unit 4

Another problem is that Eskom has run its emergency reserves so hard that diesel stocks are running low, and it needs to replenish its water in pump storage.

The low EAF has a knock-on effect on Eskom’s operations. As there is not enough electricity to meet demand, Eskom cannot take additional capacity offline for maintenance.

As maintenance is not performed as needed, unplanned breakdowns increase further, and load-shedding therefore increases.

Solidarity’s coordinator for the electrical sector, Tommy Wedderspoon, told Moneyweb the breakdowns are partly a result of Eskom not having money for spares to fix power stations.

“Staff are trying to improvise and get permission for makeshift plans, but when the pawpaw hits the fan, management turns on them and blame them,” said Wedderspoon.

Wedderspoon said while Eskom increasingly blames staff for load-shedding, the company fails to provide the basics needed to function effectively. Staff morale has subsequently hit rock bottom.

To make matters worse, corruption is still rife at Eskom, and the patronage networks created over the last decade are alive and well.

Last week Eskom announced that two employees and a supplier were arrested and charged with fraud, theft, and corruption related to the disappearance of spares at Tutuka power station valued at hundreds of millions of rand.

Eskom’s investigations have also established the existence of a syndicate responsible for the theft of approximately R100 million worth of fuel oil per month from the power station.

So dire is the situation at Eskom that Rossouw said Eskom is near a total collapse.

“I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I see a big train coming down the tunnel at us,” Rossouw said. “We’re definitely going to have to get used to being in the dark.”

MyBroadband asked Eskom about the continued load-shedding and related problems, but the company did not respond.

Now read: Eskom on brink of total collapse

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Eskom is falling apart