By Siphelele Dludla for IOL
Eskom has warned the public to brace for more power cuts for the next 10 months as the capacity outlook for the period ending August 2022 showed that the power system would remain constrained.
The struggling power utility yesterday warned the public to expect an increased risk of load shedding while the reliability maintenance programme of its ageing coal fleet was being implemented.
Eskom has so far implemented 32 days of loadshedding since April 1 due to increasing breakdowns and low plant availability, and currently there is a nightly Stage 2 loadshedding.
Eskom’s energy available factor (EAF) has declined to 65.3 percent this financial year against a target of 70 percent, and down from the average of 67.9 percent achieved last year.
As a result, Eskom needs an additional 4 000MW to 6 000MW generation capacity to eliminate the risk of loadshedding and to ensure the necessary electrical energy that is needed to stimulate the economy.
It is not clear how soon the 2 000MW of emergency additional power commissioned by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will come into the grid.
Eskom group executive for generation Phillip Dukashe said a key contributor to the low EAF was high levels of planned maintenance over the summer months.
Since September, Eskom has increased its planned maintenance programme to an average 5 500MW of capacity, almost double the average maintenance carried out in the same period in September 2019 to April 2020.
Dukashe said the recent high levels of unplanned outages was a concern, but Eskom would continue to drive its reliability maintenance recovery programme.
“Generation plant performance is still unreliable and unpredictable, but improvement initiatives are being driven hard to get to acceptable levels,” Dukashe said.
“We need to ensure system stability and to meet demand a minimum 4 000MW of additional generating capacity is critical.
“This will ensure the space for generation to continue with the planned reliability maintenance and refurbishment programme, and that the operational recovery is timeously funded and resourced to enable maximum readiness to execute successfully.”
Due to the system constraints, Eskom said it had used more than the anticipated levels of diesel for its Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs), spending at least R2.5 billion so far to keep the lights on.
Eskom chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer said the utility would be required to extensively use the OCGTs to either avert loadshedding or to reduce the magnitude thereof.
Oberholzer conceded that load shedding carries a significant damaging effect to the economy.
“We are aware that the increased maintenance does elevate the probability of loadshedding in the short term, but this is necessary to improve the future performance of the generation fleet,” Oberholzer said.
“Our objective is to achieve a reliable and sustainable generation plant, thereby reducing the risk and frequency of the occurrence of loadshedding. As such, Eskom will not compromise on reliability maintenance and mid-life refurbishment.”