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Plan for Medupi and Ingula stations will be known by month end, says Eskom internal memo

Mar 21 2019 11:00
Lameez Omarjee

Design defects at Medupi power station are being addressed and the way forward will be known before the end of March, according to an internal memo circulated among Eskom employees.

The memo, from chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer, updated staff on the power utility's generation recovery plan, given that load shedding resumed last week. Eskom implemented Stage 4 load shedding from Saturday.

"It is unfortunate that we resumed load shedding last week and over the weekend," Oberholzer said. He also reiterated former statements made by Eskom on the recent spate of load shedding, which was caused by capacity losses at generating plants, as well as the loss of supply caused from Cahora Bassa in Mozambique.

"Recovery is squarely in our hands. As senior leadership, we have made good progress in the past two weeks," Oberholzer said.

He informed staff that meetings had been held with leadership at the generation side of the business and further engagements would take place in the next few weeks.

He also provided an update on steps being taken to address design defects at Medupi power station.

"On the five key design defects at Medupi – fruitful engagements have been held with contractors, with a view on the way forward expected before the end of March," Oberholzer said. "However, proposals need to be formalised given the contractual, legal and cost implications," he added.

A team is based at Medupi to address operational challenges. "Immediate focus is on changing the operating and maintenance regimes and closing the resource gaps," the memo said.

The Medupi factor

In the memo, Oberholzer said Medupi is the biggest contributor to trips, which is the key reason of poor system performance. The other four power stations which contribute the most to trips are Tutuka, Kriel, Majuba and Duvha.

"We will have intensive interactions and workshops with these power stations to drive immediate actions to bring this under control," he said.

Multiple trips have come about due to boiler tube leaks, he explained.

Another new plant which has been giving trouble is Ingula power station. A third-party expert has conducted an independent review at the power station. "There are concerns that will now be addressed with the contractor and we will have a way forward by the end of this month," he said.

Eskom's board had also taken decisions affecting the progress of the 9-point recovery plan. Among these is that capital for outages in the 2019/20 financial year had been approved. The board has also approved a decision to appoint critical skills at stations. "This includes the power station management structures and the plant operators," Oberholzer explained.

Coal stock levels

Oberholzer said that coal stock levels are recovering, and the process is on track to meet targets by month end.

"Only three out of 15 stations are now below the target of 15 days and recovery is on track to achieve 33 system stock days (excluding Medupi and Kusile) by 31 March 2019," the memo read.

"As much as there is urgency to 'stop the bleeding', we need to remember that turning our performance around will not happen overnight - this is a journey… It may, at times like this, seem impossible; however I do believe we will make the necessary headway if we work safely always, and focus on our daily tasks at hand," Oberholzer said in his concluding remarks.

Fake news

Meanwhile, Eskom has issued a statement warning that messages being circulated on digital and social media that there will not be electricity in SA are misleading.

The power utility said load shedding is a last resort to prevent a complete blackout and that it is a controlled process.

"Eskom is aware of Eskom parody accounts being used to spread fake news," the statement read.

eskom  |  load shedding  |  medupi  |  coal  |  sa economy  |  power station


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