Eskom under pressure as the power grid remains constrained

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Cash-strapped Eskom has been battling to keep up with demand due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations. Cash-strapped Eskom has been battling to keep up with demand due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations.

It’s been a tricky few days for South Africa’s electricity grid with Government and Eskom under enormous pressure to come up with an action plan to avoid further power cuts.

Eskom has been battling to keep up with demand due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations.

The utility sees the threat of rolling blackouts for up to the next three years as the power grid remains constrained, a spokesman said on Thursday, likely denting growth in Africa's most developed economy.

A number of organisations have come forward raising concerns about the impact of periodic load shedding on business and the sustainability of electricity in the future.

Cash-strapped Eskom has indicated that unless it receives additional government funds, it will run out of money to buy diesel, which is being used to run open gas turbines, from mid-February.

These are being used extensively at the moment to make up for the shortfall in generating capacity after a coal silo collapse at the Majuba Power Station.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed last year to implement a turnaround strategy for the utility but as yet there's no word on his action plan or whether government will provide funds.

Eskom has set itself a new deadline to start synchronising one of the six units from the Medupi Power Station to the national grid.

The utility says the unit at the newly built power station in Limpopo should start up next month but says it will be intermittent while testing takes place.

Eskom missed its December deadline to bring one unit from the Medupi Power Station online, but says this should now happen sometime next month.

The country desperately needs more power supply to ensure load shedding is kept to the minimum.

Eskom’s Andrew Etzinger says even when the unit is synchronised to the grid, a lot still needs to be done to add capacity.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has reportedly read the riot act to Eskom bosses, saying they must sort out their problems which are affecting the economy.

It is understood government will “play its part” but Nene warns that day-to-day operations are the utility's responsibility.

Eskom Media brief on state of power system

Eskom Chief Executive Tshediso Matona, on Thursday gave a brief to media about the current state of the power system.

Just three and a half months into the job, Matona admitted that the company was in "difficult waters" and apologised for the recent load-shedding experienced by the nation.

He admitted that the source of all the problems for Eskom was its failure to maintain its generation infrastructure.

"Eskom has not stayed faithful to maintaining its infrastructure... If you do not do maintenance, that car will break down, sometimes embarrassing you," he said.

He told reporters that lack of maintenance had been done for a long time and therefore fixing the problems would take the same time that the company had ignored maintenance.

Read more on:

Eskom  |  Medupi Power Station  |  Cyril Ramaphosa  |  Majuba Power Station  |  Nhlanhla Nene  |  Tshediso Matona