Eskom must switch off these 5 power stations — or South Africa will be switched off

Shutting down five of Eskom’s old and dilapidated coal-fired power stations can solve South Africa’s electricity crisis without having to bring any new generation online.

That is the view of energy analyst Mike Rossouw, who recently spoke during a webinar on Eskom’s current state hosted by EE Business Intelligence.

Rossouw is CEO of Energy Thought Leaders and previously served five years as an independent director of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa.

He holds a BSc in Engineering from the University of Pretoria and has 35 years of experience in engineering and general and executive management in various mining and mineral sectors.

Rossouw said Eskom would not be able to correct its operational problems and rid the country of load-shedding unless it disposed of the Arnot, Camden, Grootvlei, Hendrina, and Komati power stations.

Netwerk24 quoted him as saying that these five coal-fired power stations were so old and dysfunctional they posed a threat to the country’s energy security.

On average, these power stations are over 53 years old.  Komati is now 60 years old, Camden is 54, Grootvlei is 52, Hendrina is 51, and Arnot is 50.

By comparison, Engineering News reported the average age of European coal-fired power plants is around 25-35 years, while those in the US are about 43 years.

Due to their age and natural degrading performance over time, these five power stations are falling far short of their designed generation capacity. Instead of 8,300MW, they are generating about 4,000MW.

Although they were supposed to provide 21% of Eskom’s total generation, they effectively only produced about 13%.

Hendrina Power Station

While they are running, their performance is generally unreliable, resulting in trips and other malfunctions that require costly fixes.

Rossouw said the money spent on maintaining these power stations prevents Eskom from working on and tuning newer power stations with greater potential contributions to the grid.

According to him, the extensive maintenance performed on the old stations is bearing little fruit.

While Eskom is planning to decommission many of the older stations in the next 14 years in any event, shutting them down earlier would provide a more immediate injection of maintenance funding.

According to Rossouw’s analysis, using the money on the remaining ten coal power stations would help bring their energy availability factor (EAF) to over 80%. That would be more than enough to meet the country’s current electricity demand.

EAF is a ratio describing Eskom’s available energy generation relative to the maximum power the utility could produce based on installed capacity. Years with higher EAF typically experienced lower levels of load-shedding.

As of this week, Eskom’s EAF for the year-to-date stood at an average of 62.25%, according to its weekly system status report — its lowest level ever recorded.

The table below shows the EAF of Eskom’s generation fleet and various outage factors over the last few weeks.

Rossouw said that if Eskom did not switch off these five power stations, the country would be switched off.

He maintained that Eskom would not need any additional generating capacity if it followed this approach.

But Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer disagreed and reiterated Eskom’s stance that the utility urgently required 4,000 to 6,000MW of new capacity to eliminate load-shedding.

Energy expert Chris Yelland supported his view and said that Eskom’s cooperation with the private power sector is key to achieving the additional capacity.

Now read: Expect Eskom power price hikes

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Eskom must switch off these 5 power stations — or South Africa will be switched off