Eskom ‘better prepared’ this winter

South Africa’s power system will remain in peril during winter, acting Eskom chief executive Collin Matjila said on Thursday.

“The country still remains vulnerable and it will be the same during winter,” Matjila told reporters in Johannesburg. “While we continue with maintenance as part of our strategy to have remaining capacity … we will see a reduction in the maintenance schedule.” 

Eskom had experienced very positive co-operation from industrial and business users over summer, though on February 20 and 21, and March 6, power system emergencies were declared. On March 6, the power utility introduced deliberate power cuts for the first time in six years, said Matjila. 

“We project from information received from weather experts that this winter is likely to be the same as last winter,” he said. “We are not expecting a severe winter.” Even so, measures were being taken to ensure the winter demand was met. 

“We are better prepared to assure South Africans of our ability to supply electricity,” the acting chief executive said. He urged customers to reduce electricity consumption, especially between the peak 5pm to 9pm period, through turning off unused appliances, lights, geysers, and using gas heaters. 

“Between now until the 16th of June … we are very tight. We need to manage this period quite tightly … We cannot do this alone. We cannot beat the peak alone.” In terms of coal stocks at power stations, with the prescribed minimum being 42 days, the majority of power stations were at 45 days. 

Eskom executives forgo annual bonuses
Meanwhile, Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi said the process of appointing a permanent chief executive was at an “advanced stage”, with submissions made to the minister in that regard. 

On Wednesday, Matjila said in a statement that Eskom executives would forgo their annual bonuses this year in light of the parastatal’s R255-billion revenue shortfall. Eskom said the National Energy Regulator of South Africa had approved a tariff increase of 8%, which left it with a funding gap. 

Those that were not at 42 days would be brought up to the appropriate level. Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, speaking before Matjila, said electricity remained one of the critical building blocks in enabling growth, with power cuts used as a last resort. 

“I want to assure that the decision to implement load shedding is not and was not taken lightly,” she said. “Load shedding remains a measure of last resort but will be implemented to prevent … a black-out of the system.” – Sapa

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