Picture: for illustration purposes

Eskom Plunges into Deeper Load-Shedding Woes

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

Despite reassurances of dwindling power outages, the South African power utility, Eskom, was hit with Stage 7 load-shedding - a level that cuts 6,369 MW from the grid - on two separate occasions last week. The utility transitioned to Stage 6 load-shedding from Tuesday, 5 September, to Thursday, 7 September, but heightened breakdowns combined with escalated planned maintenance pushed the situation into Stage 7.

Eskom’ s Senior Manager, Eric Shumangum, stated that a more extensive load-shedding was prompted by amplified breakdowns and greater planned maintenance. Over the past week, Eskom faced a planned maintenance of 5,700 MW and unexpected breakdown maintenance of 17,200 MW, spiralling above their winter targets of 3,000 MW of planned maintenance and 15,000 MW of unexpected breakdowns.

The rising pattern of planned and unplanned maintenance took Eskom into an additional 5,000 MW of lost generation capacity, thereby aggravating the load-shedding status. Additionally, to manage the R30 billion diesel budget prudently, the use of open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) was curtailed, which indirectly contributed to the intensifying load-shedding during breakdown surges.

Eskom's Chair, Mpho Makwana, in January, announced an ambitious two-year plan to overhaul plant performance and lessen load-shedding. A set of Energy Availability Factor (EAF) targets was declared, aimed at achieving a 70% EAF gradually by 31 March 2025. However, recent setbacks and escalating breakdowns cast a gloomy shadow of doubt on reaching these targets.

Eskom's official data reveals a declining performance, with September's EAF dropping to 52%, as opposed to the consistent average of 60% projected earlier. Unless an unforeseen turn of events occurs, Eskom's goal of reaching a 65% EAF by 31 March 2024 and 70% by 31 March 2025 currently appears as a tall order.

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