Eskom pronounces death of regular load-shedding

Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe insists that "we plan to meet demand for electricity 100% of the time".

Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe insists that "we plan to meet demand for electricity 100% of the time".

At its state of the system briefing on Monday, Eskom presented a rosier power picture than South Africans have grown accustomed to.

As consumers continue to use electricity wisely, load-shedding has been minimal in recent months and none is anticipated up until August next year. The parastatal also refuted reports that there was a demand crisis. 

Eskom, in its presentation, prominently pointed out that over the past 99 days the system had only experienced 2 hours and 20 minutes of load-shedding, which was as a result of losing a number of generating units in quick succession. 

Eskom has turned a corner and all the hard work of staff and executives is beginning to show results, said Eskom board chairperson Baldwin Ngubane, addressing media on Monday. 

“We plan to meet demand for electricity 100% of the time and implement stage 1 load-shedding only when over capacity,” said Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe. “This is not anticipated at the moment … we do not anticipate problems up until August.”

Better predictability has been made possible through the development of a new methodology called Tetris, Molefe said. 

Molefe said reports that the need for load-shedding had reduced due to declining economic growth was “somewhat true”. He claimed demand had only reduced for three weeks or so, but that generally the demand profile has remained similar. 

Molefe credits Eskom’s good supply over the past 99 days for boosting manufacturing output by 0.9% in September. 

A number of levers were used to contain load-shedding. This comprised of renewable energy (which contributed up to 1 300MW during the day) Open Cycle Gas Turbines (which have seen Eskom tackling a mounting diesel bill) and demand market participation.

There is, however, concerns that load-shedding has been averted at the expense of adequate maintenance. 

But Molefe said the utility had performed three times more maintenance this year than before and in December would have another “maintenance festival” in which upkeep can be stepped up while demand is at its lowest.

“There is a line between not doing maintenance at all, and doing maintenance at all costs. We are looking for the line to do sufficient maintenance without load-shedding,” said Molefe. 

Eskom announced it had found a short-term solution for Majuba power station where a silo collapsed and it is now operating at full capacity.  Designs for a permanent solution have been completed. 

As far as the broken boiler at Duvha is concerned, Molefe said talks between Eskom and its insurer were coming to a close with agreement over the solution. 

Questioned over whether the drought could put water-intensive operations at risk, Eskom executive Matshela Koko said while dam levels were low, there was no risk of running out in the next year. 

Chief financial officer Anoj Singh noted Eskom’s liquidity position improved quite significantly and looked good into next year too “on condition we get the R23-billion cash injection from government”. 

The cash injection plus a R60-billion loan writedown were announced in February by treasury as part of a rescue package for the utility. 

Eskom’s cash balance is expected to be R15-billion at the end of the year all things considered.

Singh said this was unrelated to the R22-billion which Eskom had applied to the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) to claw back.  Singh said the money applied for had already been spent to keep the lights on and the application was seeking reimbursement. 

Eskom claimed no further delays at projects Ingula, Kusile and Medupi. 

The utility said power could be saved through setting air conditioning to 23ºC and close windows and doors to optimise it. It advised consumers to switch off geysers and pool pumps all day until 9pm and to limit pool filtering cycles to two cycles daily, and not between 5pm and 9pm.

 
Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn

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