The situation at Eskom power stations is out of control, with the power utility not knowing what load-shedding will be from one day to the next.
This is according to Chris Yelland, managing director at EE Business Intelligence, who added that the state-owned utility is ignoring highly competent and qualified labour that could be used to repair generating units faster.
“It’s not acceptable. To have such levels of unplanned outages indicates deep problems. Units are tripping out randomly. Boiler tube leaks continue to be a major source of problems,” Yelland said in an interview with SABC News.
“The bottom line is it points to a situation that is not under control, and for the minister or president to say that things are coming right… The reality is they do not know from one day to the next what load-shedding will be.”
“These are unplanned outages, they aren’t predictable, and the plant is performing really badly,” he added.
Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics at the University of Johannesburg, says the breakdown of nine generating units in two days is highly unusual.
“I am a bit surprised that we had nine units failing in the space of two days. That has, of course, led to speculation about whether there’s something else going on,” said Winkler in an interview with Newzroom Afrika.
“Difficult to say, but it was a rather unusual and unexpected decline.”
Yelland explained that fixing boiler tube leaks requires skilled welders, and the entire generating unit must be shut down to do such repairs.
“I am aware that there are a number of very significant valuable resources that are being completely ignored by Eskom in its efforts to fix boiler tube leaks,” he said.
Very competent, qualified, certified, award-winning welding companies who can do this kind of work, that are being sidelined.”
Yelland added that there is no clear reason as to why Eskom ignores such resources.
At least five more years of load-shedding
Both Winkler and Yelland believe Eskom’s rotational power cuts will be around for the foreseeable future.
Winkler said he still believes South African residents will experience load-shedding for another five years.
“To say that something is within reach could mean ten years down the line or next week. So I think he’s [Ramaphosa] deliberately left it open so that he couldn’t be called out if that doesn’t happen,” he said in response to a question about whether we’ve seen the worst of load-shedding.
“I still stick to my prediction that we are going to have load-shedding for another five years. Although, at the same time, I get the sense that we are possibly past the worst of it.”
“At the moment, we are looking better this year than we did at the same time last year, but not by very much,” added Winkler.
Yelland said the country’s residents shouldn’t get their hopes up regarding the end of load-shedding, adding that South Africa requires new generation capacity to break the cycle of load-shedding.
“We must temper our expectations that Eskom can be fixed. The reality is that this plant is damaged and it’s old, it’s been poorly treated and poorly maintained,” he said.
“One can and should and must always do maintenance. Not just at the end of life of a plant, but also in the beginning-, mid-, and end-life.”
“Ultimately, what we need now is new generation capacity that performs like new generation capacity, not new generation capacity that has flue-gas duct failures or hydrogen explosions that blow up the generator,” added Yelland.