Andre de Ruyter, Group Chief Executive of state-owned power utility Eskom speaks during a media briefing in Johannesburg. File picture: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters
Andre de Ruyter, Group Chief Executive of state-owned power utility Eskom speaks during a media briefing in Johannesburg. File picture: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Black engineers forum slams Eskom CEO for load shedding failures

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 26, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Eskom leadership said two weeks ago that it expected load shedding to be a feature of life for at least the next five years as the country faces a shortfall of 4 000MW, which could increase if the economy grows.

It said everyone wanted an economy without constraints and it was looking at bringing new-generation capacity as soon as possible.

But NSBE president Mdu Mlaba said Eskom had no excuse for load shedding as the demand for electricity was lower in 2020 - at peak demand of 34.2GW, compared to 36.7GW in 2010.

Mlaba said the Eskom statement was “mischievous” because the Medupi and Kusile Power Stations could cover the 4 000MW shortfall.

“The two brand-new coal-fired power stations are capable of delivering an extra 9 000MW of base load power to the grid.

“The focus should be on assembling a competent technical team to get on top of the current engineering challenges at Medupi and Kusile to get them to perform at the Energy Availability Factor (“EAF”) of at least 90% so that South Africans can start enjoying the benefits of that massive investment,” he said.

Mlaba said Eskom should stop “flip flopping” and sending mixed messages to the public about load shedding as the power utility was dealing with a financially burdened public who were also facing a 15% tariff increase on lights.

He said in 2017, Eskom had dealt with load shedding when there was higher peak demand at 35.8GW and said blaming the old fleet of power stations was an excuse.

“This lame excuse about the old fleet of coal power stations as a root cause of load shedding is completely unacceptable as this myth was proven wrong just over three years ago.

“The above developments and the latest Eskom Integrated Report which was published on 31 March 2020 show that Eskom under the leadership of Andre De Ruyter is unable to fulfil its mandate to provide electricity in an efficient, reliable and sustainable manner,” he said.

Mlaba said the current leadership had no effective plan to deal with load shedding and that this was a risk to the NDP’s 2030 goals.

He said the age of a plant was not the issue, as the Medupi and Kusile power stations were new, but they were still marred with reliability issues.

“Majuba Power Station is the youngest in the old coal fleet but it is not performing to the required standard.

“Matimba Power Station, in contrast, is older than Majuba but its performance is world class. Hence, the age of plant has got nothing to do with its performance,” he said.

He said there was a need to accelerate the upgrade of C&I equipment at Tutuka, Duvha and Majuba Power Stations to avoid load shedding., while also reining in the primary energy costs of Eskom as they were increasing exponentially and rendering Eskom financially unsustainable.

He also said the racism allegations meted at De Ruyter were a “dark cloud” over his head.

But De Ruyter has vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation into allegations that he was guilty of racism but said that he would not tolerate corruption.

He was accused of sidelining black suppliers and allegedly undermining black managers at Eskom.

He said the NSBE was requesting Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to declassify the Eskom Technical Task team report so that they could see the progress updates on the power utility’s maintenance strategy, approach and plans for the Eskom coal fleet.

The NSBE said it wanted Eskom to improve the quality of workmanship during outages so as to avoid failure of units that had just come out of planned maintenance shutdown.

“We need to ensure that the major maintenance outage timelines are strictly adhered to and there should be serious consequence management for slippages.

“Restore the reliability of auxiliary plants (water production plant, coal handling plant, ash handling plant, cooling water plant, condensate extraction pumps, hydrogen plant, condensate polishing plant, etc) to 90% and above.

“This plant has built in redundancies and it should not be difficult to achieve this. It is completely unacceptable to introduce load shedding due to the failure of auxiliary plant.

“Ensure that there’s benchmarking and sharing of best practices within Generation,” he said.


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