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Eskom on load shedding: We're not out of the woods

Jun 24 2018 06:26
Justin Brown

Eskom operated half of its emergency diesel-powered peaking power plants for three days earlier this month during the industrial action by thousands of its employees, said Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe.

“Diesel worth R102 million was used to avoid a total blackout between Thursday [June 14] and Saturday [June 16] last week. Diesel generators were built to assist Eskom during emergency situations, and the strike was certainly one of those situations,” Phasiwe said.

He wasn’t able to say exactly how much diesel fuel was consumed over those days.

The current price of diesel is R14.19 a litre, so R102 million would have bought almost 7.2 million litres of diesel.

However, Phasiwe said Eskom buys diesel in bulk at hugely discounted rates. This means the amount consumed would have been greater than 7.2 million litres.

On Wednesday, Eskom again resorted to using emergency diesel-consuming peaking power plants due to the paper-thin balance between power demand and supply, said Phasiwe.

The two plants that would have been operated were the Ankerlig open cycle gas turbine in Atlantis, in the Western Cape, and the Gourikwa gas power station, near Mossel Bay, he said.

Phasiwe said 18 people have been arrested, largely for alleged intimidation and blockading the entrances at Eskom power stations, during the strike.

He said South Africa would remain “very vulnerable” to Eskom power cuts until at least next Wednesday as the supplier recovers from the strike.

“The risk of load shedding will always be there. Until June 27, the system is going to be constrained as our machines recover from the strike. We aren’t out of the woods.”

As long as the two new coal-fired power stations, Medupi and Kusile, were still being built, load shedding would remain a risk, and this risk would probably extend for the next five years.

Other risks that could see Eskom resort to power cuts would be the increased demand for power during winter, and low coal stocks at Eskom power stations.

The hardest hit power stations during the industrial action were Arnot and Hendrina as these stations were deserted by the Eskom workforce.

At the moment six power stations have coal stock piles for less than the required 20 days: Arnot, Tutuka, Majuba, Hendrina, Camden and Kriel.

Phasiwe declined to say exactly how much coal the six stations had on site.

Eskom was in the process of procuring 3 million tons of extra coal for winter, when the demand for energy is higher than at warmer times of the year.

Phasiwe said negotiations with coal suppliers about providing extra coal were proving “challenging”, especially when it comes to the pricing of the coal as the suppliers were looking for a significant premium.

Speaking about Exxaro’s North Block Complex, which mainly supplies the Arnot power station, Phasiwe said Eskom was “on the verge of resolving’” the matter.

The complex has been facing a community blockage that has stopped truck drivers from moving coal from the mine to Eskom power stations.

Eskom truck drivers have not collected coal since May 24 because local residents have allegedly been threatening them.

In 2017, the complex supplied almost 2.5 million tons of coal to Eskom, and at that rate about 200 000 tons of coal would have been stockpiled at the complex over the past month due to the blockage.

This week Eskom offered its three major unions a wage increase of 4.7% for 2018 and an inflation-based increase for the three years from 2019 to 2021.

The unions made Eskom a counteroffer, which the power utility will respond to when wage talks resume on Wednesday.

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eskom  |  load shedding  |  electricity  |  sa economy  |  wage talks


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