Eskom confirmed that there were eight power stations with less than 20 days of coal stockpiles. Photo: New York Times

JOHANNESBURG – The Energy Expert Coalition said on Monday that the Eskom board should take accountability after news surfaced that the power utility was facing yet another disastrous coal shortage.

Eskom confirmed that there were eight power stations with less than 20 days of coal stockpiles, or nine if you add Komati power station which is usually excluded from the 20-day prescribed minimum stock days because its coal stockyard had a maximum capacity of 10 days.

Ted Blom, partner at the Energy Expert Coalition, said the public had probably forgotten that the Coal Taskforce, of which he was a part in 2007, identified that Eskom would face a coal cliff by 2015.

Blom said at the time, Eskom announced an immediate commitment to establish at minimum 40 new coal mines but not a single new Eskom-tied coal mine has been opened yet, more than 10 years after the announcement.

"The new Eskom board was appointed in January 2018 and one would have hoped that by now they would have identified how coal procurement has been captured," Blom said in a statement.

Emergency plan

He said that Eskom's declared emergency plan to truck in Waterberg coal defied all industry logic and exposes how far removed the board was from reality. 

"This is the sort of mess you can expect when inexperienced persons are appointed to the board of what is probably the most strategically complex company to manage in South Africa. Without experience in Eskom’s past successful strategies prior to 2001, this consultancy has zero chance of coming up with a viable future business plan," Blom said.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that the energy regulator had been informed about the current coal challenges, and that new coal contracts will be signed soon in an effort to rebuild the coal stockpiles at the affected stations.

"The decline in coal stockpiles was exacerbated by the failure of Tegeta to meet its contractual obligations, forcing Eskom to transfer coal away from power stations with healthy stock levels to the three that Tegeta is contracted to supply. Tegeta is currently under business rescue," Phasiwe said.

"Although Eskom generally has adequate capacity to meet demand for most hours of the day, the power system becomes severely constrained during peak hours, prompting Eskom to use diesel in order to ensure security of power supply."

– African News Agency (ANA)