Durban - Eskom will have to closely manage unplanned breakdowns if it wants to ensure that an increase in planned maintenance does not lead to more load shedding in summer.
This is the view of energy experts who spoke to The Mercury regarding the possibility of increased load shedding in summer due to planned maintenance of the parastatal’s power stations.
In his weekly media briefing, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa discussed summer maintenance plans and said Eskom had remained within its budget regarding the burning of diesel.
Energy experts said although it was encouraging that the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) had increased, ensuring a reduction in unplanned breakdowns would be crucial to lower stages of load shedding in the summer months.
Eskom said in summer it increases maintenance as demand drops but this did not mean an increase in load shedding as other units were expected to return online in summer, which will increase EAF.
Ramokgopa said the more they were able to plan maintenance “that speaks to our ability and confidence that the units are going to become more reliable”.
Eskom said from the beginning of the financial year to the end of April, the allocated budget for diesel was R9.7 billion and the actual spend on diesel was R9.2bn, which was well within the range of the allocated budget.
Lungile Mashele, an energy economist, said there would be load shedding as Eskom starts its summer maintenance programme.
“The intensity of the load shedding is unknown. It may not be as bad because naturally the winter demand will come down. However, there is industrial demand, which will increase.”
Ruse Moleshe, managing director of RUBK, an energy and infrastructure consulting and advisory company, said that she felt the diesel spend was still too high. “The budget for diesel, whether Eskom exceeded it or not, is neither here nor there, the challenge is that diesel consumption is too high. It impacts the sustainability of the sector negatively. Unless there is a significant improvement in the performance of the Eskom generation fleet, the situation will continue.”
Moleshe said she hoped the planned return of four Kusile generation units, Medupi unit 4 and a Koeberg unit would materialise as it would improve supply availability.
Craig Morkel, CEO of iKapa Energy and chairperson of the Gas Economy Leadership Team at the SA Oil & Gas Alliance, said: “As spring approaches, demand is expected to decrease, as in previous years. The lower demand in warmer months gives Eskom more time to do planned maintenance, while also fixing the unplanned breakdowns of equipment such as boiler tube leaks, conveyor belts, etc.”
Morkel said that more planned maintenance, as measured by the Planned Capacity Loss Factor (PCLF), was scheduled for the summer months.
“Any unplanned breakdowns, as measured by the Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) may delay some planned maintenance. It is very encouraging to see that the unplanned breakdowns have decreased from about 18 000MW to about 14 000 MW in the last reporting week.”
Morkel said the decrease in unplanned breakdowns and successes of the planned maintenance to date had increased the reliability of the Eskom generation fleet.
“However, because Eskom usually does most of its planned maintenance in the summer months, when demand is lowest, it will need to take its adequately well-performing power generation units off-line to prevent later unplanned breakdowns.”