South Africa

Eskom generating units ‘worsen due to inadequate repairs’

Eskom’s generating units are becoming increasingly problematic because the power utility lacks the financial resources to carry out thorough preventative and reliability maintenance, says an energy expert.

Ruse Moleshe said it was typical to schedule maintenance when the demand was low and it was common for plants to break down due to unplanned maintenance.

But it was uncommon to have such a huge number out of action.

“For instance, recently we had 17 000MW of outages that were due to breakdowns. With Eskom, it generally takes longer to bring them back to operation,” she said.

“It’s a combination of different things. It could be finances or spare parts not being available. Eskom has been plagued by a lot of issues so that contributes to the higher number of outages.”

According to Moleshe, the biggest challenge in SA from the supply side was that the big generation units were off.

“We have Medupi unit four off and Kusile, which is a huge plant with no capacity, on.

“Then we have Koeberg under long-term addition of life type of maintenance which is supposed to come back onstream, but when it does unit two will be off,” she said.

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“The number of units that are off that are contributing to an already constrained system, when we have these unpredictable outages.”

As ongoing rolling blackouts disrupt the lives of all South Africans, there is concern that with SA entering the El Nino season of hotter weather, it may impact on plant performance.

Moleshe said in summer more maintenance was done.

“Demand is lower in summer. That’s why we now see almost a doubling of planned maintenance,” she said.

Saturday Citizen asked Eskom why units were deteriorating despite extra maintenance, but no response was provided.

Energy specialist Lungile Mashele said increased load shedding may be ahead as a result of the “increased industrial demand and warmer temperatures” which could affect plant performance.

“And we are now using diesel, which you are supposed to use as standby capacity, almost as a normal source of generation.”

Eskom announced yesterday that it would ease load shedding to between Stage 2 and Stage 4 over the weekend.