Eskom battles more supply stress

2011-02-11 06:28

Johannesburg - On Thursday 4 000MW, or 10%, of Eskom’s 40 000MW electricity-generation capacity was unavailable.

This was because of various problems that had arisen in the power grid.

Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said the problems included a 600MW generation unit at the Duvha power station close to Witbank that had been seriously damaged on Sunday night.

Repairs to this unit would take months and seriously strained the utility’s ability to meet peak-time power demand.

Apart from these problems, Eskom needed to take a 900MW Koeberg power station unit out of service at the beginning of March for essential fuel reloading, which could take more than 40 days.

The Duvha and Koeberg disruptions shortly ahead of winter will severely stress Eskom’s generation capacity.

The situation is under control but is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, said Joffe.

She added that 3 000MW was currently unavailable owing to planned maintenance.

The loss of the Duvha unit meant that from now on Eskom would be unable to do 600MW of its planned upkeep and maintenance work. The utility was currently doing less maintenance than it would ideally like to do, she said.

Joffe said many of the power stations were old and working harder than designed to do. They consequently required substantial upkeep but, with reserve margins under pressure, it was difficult to keep up with all the maintenance without further compromising security of supply.

She said that the problems that had arisen across the network on Thursday – other than at the Duvha unit – would be resolved by the end of the week.

The size of the problem of lost capacity because of network difficulties was rather unusual, she said.

Eskom had previously warned that the electricity network would be under severe pressure both this year and next year. The first new power station would start to deliver power only at the end of 2012.

Standard Bank economist Adriaan du Toit said the bank believed that sustainable electricity supply was again under rising stress.

He said Eskom’s electricity demand forecasts indicated that from the first week of March there would be a real risk of no reserve margin at peak periods. With demand returning to the 2007 levels, security of supply was again expected to be under strain.

Du Toit said the recession had diverted attention from South Africa’s electricity problems. But as GDP started to rise the cracks would become more visible, he said.

Eskom expected to have a margin of 10% for the next couple of years, while the minimum target was actually 15%. With a declining margin the power network would struggle.

The measures that Eskom had introduced to save electricity, said Du Toit, as well as rising electricity prices and poor-quality coal, placed an added burden on economic growth in South Africa.

But there was light at the end of the tunnel in terms of three new power stations – Medupi, Ingula and Kusile – which would start to generate electricity between 2012 and 2015.

But until these power stations started to deliver, growth in economic activity would be constrained by power outages.

Joffe said it was too early to know what had happened at Duvha. But the damage was covered by insurance and an investigation was under way.

- Sake24

  • WTF - 2011-02-11 07:36

    Translation - Eskom will soon be asking for more money for worse service and is already doling out the public rhetoric to try and jusify it.

  • EmTee - 2011-02-11 07:50

    1. Maintenance - I see most of the high voltage pylons along the R21 are the same TLC being given to the power stations? 2. If Eskom are struggling to produce enough supply, why are regulations around Independent Power Producers not being expedited? Yes, they can't match a coal fired station, but they can supply something...

  • Bobby - 2011-02-11 07:56

    Maybe if they clamp down on all those illegal connections, they will get back 20% of power.Then cut off power to all those in arrears and you get back another 30% power. See problem solved.

  • gcr - 2011-02-11 08:27

    My but these people running Eskom are pretty damn useless - why don't they take down power stations for maintenance when businesses close over December and when demand is down. Also there is plenty of capacity within the private sector but once again Eskom can't organise a ho down in a brothel and won't buy this capacity. If there are black outs this winter residents should refuse to pay electricity bills - City Power in Joburg are making a fortune over and above Eskom costs

  • gosolar - 2011-02-11 09:34

    Get off the grid! One can covert an average family home to a full solar electric installation for between R100k-R300k. Finance it through your bond and your electricity saving will pay off the debt.

  • Willem - 2011-02-11 11:38

    I worked for Eskom for 31 Years,than goodness i left in time.They have not got the skills to repair the plant,the whole plant is in a very bad state due to affirmative action.I think Eskom is sitting on a time bomb waiting to explode,unless they get the skills to carry out maintance as needed.

  • Go Green! - 2011-02-11 12:31

    Everything that can be derived from hydrocarbons (Coal/oil) can be derived from carbohydrates (biomass). With Cannabis being the most suitable specie of biomass for all our macroeconomic needs, relegalise it, convert it easily into methanol, and run our polluting power stations on this clean renewable subsitute. Electricity generation would then be COST-FREE if Cannabis is grown for it's highly nutritous seed (which could feed ALL our poor) or any one of it's vast amount of beneficial products. Google CBEE, The Cannabis Biomass Energy Equation, all the scientific research has already been done, all that's left to do is for our government to implent it back into the economy, but only if they are ready to give up the fat paychecks they recieve from the oil, pharmaceutical, banking, lumber and construction industries (For a cheaper, far more superior resource).

  • sag - 2011-02-11 14:08

    At least they are being transparent, unlike the past.

  • EuroDavid - 2011-02-11 16:19

    This is just a polite way to say "Get ready for more price hikes". ESCOM and ANC government are just planting the seed with articles like this. :-) Viva ANC, vivaaaaaaaa, long live Chancellor House Pty. Ltd.

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