Eskom shifted the buck to misbehaving municipalities, regional system failures, technical mishaps and insufficient funding for the ongoing crippling load shedding as it tentatively promised blackouts would be sorted by Saturday morning.
In a state of the system address yesterday afternoon, Eskom said only the Ethekwini and Buffalo City Municipalities out of the about 160 in the country, had been compliant with load shedding requirements, and it had written reprimand letters to errant municipalities that had not complied with schedules, which resulted in longer hours of load shedding.
Eskom's CEO Andre de Ruyter, Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer, Monde Bala, the Chief Executive for Transmission as well as Segomoco Scheppers, Executive for Generation said the utility's challenges were laid at the door of defiant municipalities, systems failures in the South African Development Community (SADC) power pool and inefficiencies at its own power plants where equipment blow-outs were likely to render the systems inefficient until mid December.
At that date about 1300 kilowatts of energy was expected to return to operation from the defunct generation plants.
Medupi Unit 4, which blew out mid-August due to operational inefficiencies by the Eskom maintenance team who introduced hydrogen at 35 percent of the system, instead of 5 percent, resulting in the blow-out, will not be in action at least for the next 18 months.
The system currently needs between 4 to 6 megawatts of electricity for stability.
Executives were at pains to reflect an executive team that was doing its best against the challenges, brushing aside calls from some of the business community and trade unions, for de Ruyter, to resign as his two years at the helm of the power utility had only led to the worst record of load shedding.
De Ruyter himself blamed the situation on insufficient liquidity by Eskom, and an inefficient procurement system that allowed less that efficient service providers to continue supplying Eskom with sub-par services.
"There are critical spares and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to ensure we maintain our equipment in the best condition, (but) there is lack of predictable funding. Eskom has liquidity insecurity, there is no funding to enter into contracts for long-term funding. Take diesel for example. We have to take 24 months to place orders for sufficient diesel to operate efficiently," de Ruyter said.
Eskom said all national municipalities, barring the two mentioned earlier, had been errant in implementing load-shedding, leading to a depletion of reserves, which in turn required the utility to deepen its schedule.
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique also took flak for system failures, which resulted in over and under content of the systems over the weekend, which Eskom attributed to the need for renewed load shedding.
On the immediate outlook, Oberholzer said the system would be stable enough by Saturday morning to return to "normal", barring unforeseen circumstances.
Oberholzer said according to repair and maintenance schedules, it would take 18 to 24 months for the for Medupi to come on stream, while the Kendal Unit 1 system, devastated by fire earlier this year, would also require time.
De Ruyter ruled out the possibility of his resignation, saying he served at the pleasure of the Eskom Board, the Minister for Public Enterprises and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“It is more important to have continuity of management than changing horses midstream. This organisation has had 11 executives in 10 years, it is important to have continuity in this organisation. We understand the frustrations, but they will not be solved by changing horses in mid-stream,” he said.
Oberholzer conceded that there were under-performing service providers, but they could not be changed at whim in the interests of the stability of the organisation.
The executives assured there was no danger of Eskom imploding or losing grid stability as it “had the best grid managers in the world.”
It was conceded that Eskom had haemorraged critical skills now being utilised in other parts of the world, including Asia and the Middle East, and that the utility approached the market to compete internationally for critical skills.
They also conceded that Eskom was using expensive diesel and gas backup systems which burned massive amounts of the fuels to keep the grid stable and the lights stable.
'Vessels are not waiting out of Mosselbay. It takes time to unload the diesel and utilise it. We are preserving that as much as possible to maintain volumes at the various stations,“ Oberholzer said.
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