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State-owned power utility, Eskom has become the bane of South Africans’ lives due to ongoing loadshedding. While many are hoping there will be an end to the constant power outages, there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
During a media briefing on Tuesday, 15 November 2022, Eskom Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer said the power utility had spent at least R12 billion over this year on diesel in order to run its open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).
The OCGTs are the power utility’s emergency generation units which have had to be used extensively over the past year due to the high number of breakdowns at coal fired power stations.
“In order to supply the demand of the country, we have to run our OCGTs extensively. We have invested in excess of R12 billion this year already burning diesel. Needless to say, Eskom has significant financial challenges as well. If we look at the loadshedding that we currently have, it is also to address the scarce financial resources that we have. We do not have money to burn diesel anymore. If you look, you’ll find municipalities owing Eskom R52 billion, but on the other side, we are forced to burn diesel. We are depleting our cash reserves and we are finding ourselves at a very, very delicate position,” he said.
Since January this year, South Africans have endured at least 155 days of load shedding due to some 468 trips at power stations.
As a result, Oberholzer said the performance of the generation units, mainly coal fired power stations, has not been good enough.
“There are various reasons for that. But if you look at it, it is not good. This is why we do have load shedding in the country. The number of trips [of generation units] is way too big and this is something that we need to get a handle on.
“Last year when we were talking about the number of trips, we were saying there’s too many trips and this year we’ve actually exceeded that. We really need to get our hands on this unreliability and unpredictability of some of the units at the power stations,” he continued.
Furthermore, Oberholzer said as a result of the unpredictability and unreliability of the power system, added with major capital projects and repairs plus maintenance, “the risk of continued load shedding remains quite high”.
The generation units expected to be taken offline for maintenance and repairs include:
- Koeberg Unit 1 (920MW): To be taken offline on 8 December and expected to return in June 2023
- Kusile Unit 1 (720MW): Taken offline on October 23 this year with a return date not yet determined.
- Kusile Unit 2 and 3 (1440MW): On a precautionary outage due to unit 1’s failure. A return to service date has not yet been determined.
- Medupi Unit 4 (794 MW): Out since August 2021 and is expected to return to service in September 2024.
“This is the reality of operating a shrunken generation system bereft of any reserve margin – every single breakdown pushes the whole system to the edge. This loss of capacity, temporary as it is, will make for a very challenging summer season, particularly as this is our peak planned maintenance period where a number of units at various power stations have to be shut down to conduct much needed maintenance,” stated Oberholzer.
He added that the power utility would have to continue limping along to meet electricity demand. But Eskom cautioned the public to anticipate the increased risk of loadshedding until these problems were resolved over the next six to 12 months.
With Eskom burning billions of Rands worth of diesel and loadshedding expected to increase, what are your thoughts on the above-mentioned?
Share your views in the comment section below.