Acting group chief executive, Jabu Mabuza, said Eskom would cut off 1000MW from the grid and implement stage 1 load shedding today from 9am to 11pm. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG – Power utility Eskom last night warned the country to brace for more load shedding in the days ahead as it grapples with repairs to boiler tube leaks at its coal-fired power stations, while it scrambles to secure enough diesel to keep the lights on.

Acting group chief executive, Jabu Mabuza, said yesterday that Eskom will cut off 1 000 megawatt (MW) from the grid and implement stage 1 load shedding today from 9am to 11pm, but did not see the likelihood of power cuts over the weekend, while it has given until next week Thursday as the estimated time of recovery for repairing the conveyor belt supplying Medupi.

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Mabuza said that for the year to March 2019, Eskom had burnt R6 billion worth of diesel as it struggled with high stages of load shedding.

“The amount of diesel we need to sustain supply in the interim is not a quantum that can be delivered in a short space of time. The reality is that a long-term sustainable solution is only through expedited maintenance, and/or additional capacity, which both require funds to be expended,” Mabuza said.

“While we have an overall capacity of approximately 47000MW, when we take into account both planned and unplanned outages, Eskom effectively has about 32000MW available capacity, of which demand of 30000MW including operating reserves.

“This does not give us enough room for maintenance. We are working with a system that is old and unreliable, and so risks of breakdowns are always imminent,” Mabuza said.

On Wednesday, Eskom cut 2000MW and implemented stage 2 load shedding - the first time since March - as generation challenges weighed in on its supply resulting from high levels of unplanned breakdowns which exceeded 10500MW on the grid.

A broken conveyor belt supplying Medupi Power Station alone cut off 1200MW from the grid, with 600MW lost from five generating units in Mpumalanga power stations due to boiler tube leaks.

Eskom is now forced to manually feed coal at Medupi while the conveyor belt is being fixed, and also use its pump storage, diesel generation of about 1000MW to be used for a short duration.

Mabuza said Eskom had activated an emergency command centre and the recovery is now in progress.

The boilers at power stations are being maintained by their original manufacturers, Mabuza said.

“It also our view that had we carried on using our emergency reserves, we would have been postponing the inevitable and found ourselves worse off, potentially having to load shed at levels that may well have paralysed the economy, more so than if we had started earlier.” Mabuza said, pinning his hopes on the now adopted Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) providing for long-term solution to the country’s energy crisis.

Yesterday, the rand gained 0.14percent against major currencies, trading at R14.81 against the greenback at market close, after Parliament approved the promulgation of South Africa’s long-overdue plan for electricity generation until 2030.

Treasury Partner at Peregrine Treasury Solutions, Bianca Botes, said that the Integrated Resource Plan and the stability of Eskom were crucial in attracting much-needed investment in the country.

“The news comes as a great relief after months of uncertainty, in the midst of yet another round of load shedding implemented by Eskom on Wednesday, which is expected to last well into next week,” Botes said.

“The financial situation of Eskom and its ability to sustain electricity supply to South Africa will ultimately drive foreign direct investment as well as economic growth in this country.”

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