Power utility still searches for its capital division head.
Eskom will have to go “back to market” in search of someone to head its group capital division, which is responsible for the completion of the utility’s new coal-fired power stations, Medupi and Kusile.
The company has been unable to secure any of the candidates it had shortlisted for the post, chief executive Brian Dames said this week.
However, the Eskom board is close to concluding its work in the search for a new financial director and will make a recommendation to Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba soon, Dames said.
Both positions were left vacant after Paul O’Flaherty, who was responsible for both portfolios, stepped down in early July.
O’Flaherty’s resignation was announced late last year, but Eskom has battled to find successors. In the interim, group executive for technology and commercial, Dan Marokane, has been acting head of group capital, a situation Dames said he is “very comfortable with”, while the company looks for a replacement.
He was speaking after the first quarterly state of the system update since Eskom announced delays in the completion of the Medupi power station.
Success in preventing load shedding
The company has successfully navigated winter — a time of heightened peak demand — and managed to achieve most of its long-duration maintenance targets without resorting to load shedding.
Heading into the cold season Eskom had warned that it could no longer defer maintenance on a number of its power stations, which had met their statutory limits.
Work has successfully been completed on five of the nine units Eskom had earmarked for maintenance — work on another three is currently under way and the final unit will be released during September, according to Dames.
But the power system will remain tight going into summer, he warned, and Eskom is looking for ways to ensure security of supply.
These include trying to extend contracts with independent power producers for medium and short-term supply.
These contracts come to an end in December, and include supply from municipal power generators and large industrial users that co-generate electricity.
Talks for funding continue
However, this is dependent on financing.
Eskom is in talks with the treasury and the department of energy to look at ways to continue funding these contracts, said Dames.
Potential financing could be made available through the department’s budgetary allocations for specific programmes, he said.
Discussions are advanced, but the outcome depends on the government’s budgetary cycles.
Eskom also aims to source extra capacity through regional hydro-power projects, improving transmission infrastructure and exploring regional gas opportunities.
Eskom’s open-cycle gas turbines currently run on diesel but are “dual-fuel” and can be converted to run on gas. These power plants have also been designed with sufficient space to expand and add more units.
The open-cycle gas turbines are predominantly used to meet peak demand or support the system when the reserve margin is very low.
These options will be premised on the availability of gas in the region and the infrastructure to access and transport it, said Dames.
Thanks to the growth of shale gas in the United States, prices for liquefied natural gas has decreased and there has been a growth in its availability, Dames added.