Eskom will continue to implement stage 6 load-shedding until it can recover sufficient generating capacity and could not provide a specific load-shedding timetable for the coming days.
That was the gist of the utility’s message during a media briefing on Sunday morning, following the implementation of stage 6 load-shedding earlier in the day.
Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer explained that although 18 generating units with a combined capacity of 9,000MW were expected to return to service during the coming week, ten generating units currently in operation were running with known risks.
These account for a generating capacity of around 6,000MW.
Four of these units with a combined capacity of 2,000MW were running at high risk.
Oberholzer said Eskom might be able to drop one stage of load-shedding at 17:00 on Sunday. However, this was not guaranteed.
He added that the power utility’s emergency generation capacity had to be used sparingly due to heavy utilisation in the past few days.
Based on the anticipated use of open-cycle gas turbines in the coming days, Eskom expects diesel reserves only to be restored to adequate levels later in the week.
Eskom expects Pumped-storage dam levels to return to full by Monday.
Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said they anticipated a shortfall in generating capacity of 5,282MW for the evening peak, despite an expected low demand of 26,399MW.
That figure excluded emergency generation reserves, which can contribute up to 6,000MW to the system, but De Ruyter said these could not continue to run as hard as they have in recent days.
De Ruyter said that diesel reserve levels at Ankerlig stood at 32%, while Gourikwa looked much healthier at 85%.
However, Eskom will need to run five of the generating units at the latter to take the country through Sunday’s evening peak, consuming some of that diesel.
De Ruyter said Eskom had breakdown load losses of 15,630MW, with 7,062MW of capacity out on planned maintenance.
The CEO said maintenance teams were working “flat out” to return generating units to service.
Eskom was planning to bring 5,000MW back by Monday evening, 1,590MW of which would be returned on Sunday.
However, De Ruyter warned that not all of this capacity was expected to return “smoothly” due to the age and condition of the units.
One of the larger units — Kusile Unit 3 — had already been brought back online since tripping overnight but would take time to ramp up capacity.
De Ruyter said Eskom would be approaching the market on Monday to urgently procure additional capacity that can be brought online in the short term.
The utility expects to acquire around 1,000MW from independent power producers and large industrial users.
De Ruyter said the utility was willing to buy electricity from these providers at the same price it currently pays for its most expensive alternative generation, which is its OCGTs.
He said the timeline for procuring this capacity was “probably a week or two” but depended on finalising commercial agreements.
De Ruyter also responded to questions from many sceptical South Africans about potential sabotage at Eskom’s plants in the past few days.
“At this stage, we have not seen any evidence of untoward activity leading to this spate of trips,” De Ruyter said.