File Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA.
Cape Town - Longer and more frequent periods of load shedding are expected from mid-January, with experts warning that Eskom has not undertaken adequate maintenance at its facilities for years, and that it does not have enough capacity to refurbish outdated plants.

Energy expert Ted Blom said Eskom was racing against time to upgrade its coal power stations.

“We can expect much longer periods of load shedding, and (it taking place) almost every day. The situation is going to get worse. Eskom is correct in saying that the festive season will be a low consumption period, but they should have been implementing load shedding now It would have helped avert the worse situation in the new year,” Blom said.

Load shedding was entirely due to mismanagement of resources and lack of maintenance. “They (Eskom) have not done proper maintenance since 2010. This time around they need billions to fix the problems of the past and ensure that we are producing enough power for the future,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently appointed an eight-person task team, which included former Eskom executive Brian Dames, to advise the government on how to handle the financial and operational crises at cash-strapped Eskom. However, it was reported that Dames had stepped down from the task team.

Concerns over a perceived conflict of interest relating to the scope of the team’s work, and its terms of reference, have been raised.

In a statement, Eskom group chief executive, Phakamani Hadebe said: “Eskom takes advantage of the low electricity demand during the festive season to intensify plant maintenance and fast-track the recovery of stock levels to grid code heights.

“This is in line with the organisation’s nine-point system recovery plan aimed at improving generation performance and returning the energy availability factor to 75% by November 2019.”

He said Eskom’s efforts would result in an higher-than-usual number of coal trucks travelling on major roads to and from power stations and coal mines, mostly situated in Mpumalanga.

“While the restoration of the power system is an overarching objective, the safety of all South Africans on our roads remains a priority. We therefore urge our people to be vigilant and obey the rules of the road at all times. Eskom will stop coal haulage during high-peak days, when the volume of travellers increases on the roads, from December 24 to December 27 and again from December 31 to January 1,” Hadebe said.

He urged motorists planning to travel to other countries via roads in Mpumalanga over the festive period to take into account the high number of coal trucks on the roads.

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Cape Argus