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Eskom's Phakamani Hadebe soothes load shedding fears

May 03 2018 17:24
Lameez Omarjee and Sibongile Khumalo, Fin24

Johannesburg - While the risk of load shedding always exists it is not likely to occur this winter, according to Eskom acting CEO Phakamani Hadebe.

At a media briefing on Thursday, the power utility gave a quarterly update on the state of the system.

Load shedding was the topic of the day, and Hadebe, along with other officials, gave the assurance that Eskom is taking steps to manage a shift in plant performance and coal stock levels to mitigate the risk of load shedding.

"Plans are in place to improve stockpile levels at the power stations that are currently below minimum stock levels," he said. "We think holding all things constant, we are not going to have load shedding."

He explained part of the strain on the coal supply is linked to problems at Tegeta, which is in business rescue. Tegeta's Optimum Coal Mine supplies coal to Eskom's stations.

The previous board and management tried to deal with the issue by approaching National Treasury to intervene with procurement processes. At the time Treasury was concerned about corporate governance issues at Eskom.

"The process of coal procurement is different to going to a shop and buying bread. It is not as simple as going to a shop to buy bread," said Hadebe.

Additionally, capital constraints have added to the strain on coal supply, he explained.

Eskom has 35 days of coal stockpiles overall, except for Medupe and Kusile, and the company is sourcing additional coal from suppliers to ensure that there are no outages in winter.

Hadebe proudly stated that while seven of Eskom's power stations had less than 20 days of coal supply last week, the number is now down to six. There are plans to improve coal stockpile levels at the stations Arnot, Tutuka, Majuba, Hendrina, Camden and Kriel.

Eskom is in discussion with Tegeta's business rescue practitioners to secure coal supply at Hendrina station, to ensure "sufficient coal" in winter.

It is also negotiating tenders for 100 million tonnes of coal required for the next five years

"We would be fooling ourselves if we think that there are no problems at Eskom, we are going to continue improving revenue collection.... but we are on the right trajectory," said Hadebe.

Hendrina coal supply scare

The coal supply scare reported at Hendrina last year was also raised. Thava Govender, group executive of generation, answered questions about an investigation which took place at the power station. Recommendations were made for action to be taken against senior people in the primary energy environment and at power stations.

Eskom has acted against these officials, but would not provide further details as it could jeopardise further probes and disciplinary action. "Certain issues at Hendrina will not be repeated," said Govender.

He reiterated that Eskom is negotiating with Tegeta's business practitioners about coal delivery. "Optimum has not supplied coal to Hendrina. The last bit of coal delivered was in the beginning of March. Since the beginning of March we have not received from them, we have been trucking in coal because of that."

The Hendrina contract comes to an end in June 2019.

Criminal charges

Hadebe also answered questions on whether the power utility has laid criminal charges against those found guilty of misconduct.

He explained that Eskom will not stop at dismissals and intends to lodge criminal charges.

This has not yet happened but not because Eskom does not want to do so, said Hadebe. There are five investigations taking place, including that of the Special Investigating Unit, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), National Treasury, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s inquiry into state capture and Eskom’s internal investigations.

Eskom has been consulting with the NPA over the matter, but has not yet reached agreement on how to consolidate the cases. "Our intention once agreeing is to launch criminal charges," he said. 

tegeta  |  optimum coal mine  |  eskom  |  load shedding  |  coal  |  electricity
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