Load shedding: Eskom's wet coal boogeyman is back
For a second time this year, South Africans have had to endure stage 4 power cuts, as Eskom was on Friday forced to cut 4000 megawatts of power.
Loadshedding began on Thursday, at stage 2. Stage 4 means consumers experience power cuts more frequently.
“The increase in the load shedding stage is intended, among other things, to cater for unplanned further trips and to create capacity to replenish water reserves for our pumped storage schemes,” Eskom said.
On Friday, Eskom added another reason for the power cuts - wet coal, caused by the heavy rains in Mpumalanga, South Africa’s energy producing belt, over the past couple of days.
By on Friday, the utility was using diesel and water resources to bolster capacity.
“I don’t think Eskom is being transparent,” said energy expert Chris Yelland.
He also questioned the power utility’s problem with wet coal.
“Wet coal only becomes a problem when your stockpiles start running low,” he said.
Both Yelland and independent energy expert Ted Blom believe the reason has to do with a logistical problem in supplying diesel to the turbine generators.
“The turbines are designed to operate for only short periods during the day.They use enormous amounts of diesel,” said Yelland.
The diesel storage tanks, Yelland believes, are not holding enough fuel for long periods of use.
Blom pointed out that each diesel turbine burns through 50000 litres of fuel an hour.
“It takes 20 tankers travelling from Cape Town on a four hour journey to supply 10 turbines with an hour’s fuel.”
Eskom, however, said it didn’t have a diesel supply problem. In a statement, it said it was, however, putting in place measures to deal with the wet coal.
“On wet coal, while the challenge is across a number of stations Eskom is employing its coal-handling management plan to cope with the impact of adverse weather.”
The wet and cloudy weather, Eskom said, also had an impact on the renewable energy resources, like solar, that added to the national grid.
Weather forecasters are predicting that the wet weather is likely to remain until Wednesday.