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As South Africans prepare for the silly season they better pray for no rain and that those Eskom generators keep working, because if they don’t, South Africa will be facing more load shedding.

“We are now in the hands of the gods.

“If we have an extended period of rain we are going to be in trouble,” said Chris Yelland, an energy expert.

He was responding to the announcement yesterday by Eskom chief executive Phakamani Hadebe that Eskom was struggling to ‘feed’ its power stations with coal and juggle maintenance on several generation units. Summer is usually when Eskom undertakes maintenance, because of reduced demand over the holidays.

This comes as Eskom announced its executive for the Group Capital Division Abram Masango’s suspension pending an investigation into irregular practices relating to Kusile Power Station.

Ten out of 15 power stations were experiencing coal supply shortages, he said, and that it had the added risk of getting wet from rain in Mpumalanga.

“It comes down to low availability of coal and unplanned breakdowns,” Yelland said, adding that Eskom was operating within its generation reserve, which was supposed to be a safety margin to ensure that electrical demand didn’t outstrip supply.

Hadebe said Eskom was hoping to keep the lights on by spending as much as R1billion on diesel generators which will add capacity to the grid.

He said between R750 million and R1bn was budgeted for the open cycle gas turbines.

But if the rains do come, Eskom might be forced to cut electricity to metros and suburbs. The problem, Yelland said, was that load shedding events could be difficult to plan for.

The Saturday Star