Duvha incident strains power supply but no blackouts expected

Ana Monteira

Despite the loss of a 600 megawatt unit at Duvha power station after a boiler incident, Eskom says it will not start load-shedding.

The power system is experiencing further strain after a boiler incident took out the number three unit at Duvha power station. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Power utility Eskom said it will rework maintenance plans on South African power plants to ensure the it has enough electricity supply to meet demand after a boiler incident cut 600 MW of capacity.

Excess pressure in a boiler at the Duvha coal-fired plant in the Mpumalanga province caused the facility's third unit to trip on March 30, the company said in an emailed statement on Monday. Duvha has six units, each with the capacity to generate 600 MW.

An investigating team of engineers was unable to start its probe on Monday because they had to wait for the boiler to cool down, Andrew Etzinger, a spokesman for the company, said on Tuesday.

Eskom provides more than 95% of South Africa's electricity.

"We will rebalance maintenance on our other power stations to ensure supply," Etzinger said by phone. "While the system is very tight we are not predicting any load-shedding," he said. More information about the damage and when the unit will return to service will be made available as the investigation proceeds, he said.

Eskom started rolling blackouts for the first time in six years last month, shutting shops and factories, after it declared an emergency because of heavy rains that disrupted coal supplies. The company is spending R500-billion through 2017 adding almost 11 000 MW of capacity to the national grid and servicing its aging fleet of plants.

About 25% of Eskom's 42 500 megawatts of installed capacity has been out of service this year, according to Bloomberg calculations made using the company's data.

One megawatt is enough to power about 200 middle-income South African homes at peak times, Etzinger said on March 7. – Bloomberg

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