Eskom unveils summer plan

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Eskom has unveiled its summer plan, which aims to avoid the much dreaded load shedding over the summer months.

Briefing reporters at its Megawatt Park offices in Johannesburg, acting Group Chief Executive and Interim Executive chair Jabu Mabuza said the power utility has been able to avert load shedding over the winter season.

“We had a commendable performance in winter… and managed to go through the winter season without load shedding,” said Mabuza.

In March, the power utility said it was hopeful of not implementing load shedding and that if it had to, it would not implement load shedding beyond Stage 1.

“There has been an improvement in generation performance since the beginning of this current financial year with an average energy availability factor of 70.4% as of end of August,” said Mabuza.

However, he stressed that more still needs to be done to reach the target of 78% and above for average energy availability.

“Previously, we had worked out that we could have 26 days of possible stage 1 load shedding,” said Mabuza.

The utility’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Jan Oberholzer, who presented the utility’s summer plan, said the plan will be reviewed on a daily basis.

To date, South Africa has had 164 days of no load shedding.

Summer plan detail, risk of load shedding 

The plan is driven on the fact that customer usage generally changes from a typically high demand peak usage in the evenings during winter to a sustained flat demand all day in summer.

The plan also entails Eskom carrying out an average 5 500 megawatts (MW) of maintenance at its plants.

The plan is also driven on three unplanned breakdowns scenarios considered of unplanned capability loss factor (UCLF) range of between 9 500 MW to 10 500 MW.

The utility said the plan balances the need for increased maintenance against the risk of unreliable plant performance.

However, Oberholzer highlighted that the risk of load shedding remains.

“We will do all we can [to avert it] but the risk is there. We will do whatever we can not to have load shedding,” said the Chief Operating Officer.

New trips and plant breakdown like boiler tube leaks as well as high vacuum levels due to high temperatures at the Matimba power station were among the issues highlighted as risks that could lead to load shedding.

Coal stockpiles and generation performance

The utility has been making progress in terms of coal stockpile challenges. Ten of the utility’s 15 coal fired power stations have had below the prescribed 20-day coal stock piles.

As of Monday, coal stock piles have picked up to 50 days, excluding the Medupi and Kusile power stations.

“I have been assured that every station will have the required stockpiles by end of financial year,” said Mabuza, who took over in an acting capacity on 1 August.

At Wednesday’s briefing, the utility reported that there was an uptick in trips. Partial load losses were at 3 575 MW, while unplanned load losses were at 19.54%.

The use of Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCTGs) was at R1.4 billion versus a budgeted R5.4 billion.

Meanwhile, Chief Financial Officer Calib Cassim said the power utility’s debt levels currently stand at R450 billion. -