BUSINESS MAVERICK: EXCLUSIVE

Medupi down because of ‘electrical supply panel burn-out’, say sources

By Ed Stoddard and Marianne Merten 10 December 2019
Caption
Medupi power station in Limpopo. (Photo: Elmond Jiyane / Flickr GCIS)

The Medupi power station is down and out because the electrical supply panel to the conveyor belt that supplies coal to the plant burnt out on Monday, sources familiar with the matter have told Business Maverick. And it gets worse: of the 46,000MW that Eskom is supposed to be able to generate at full capacity, 20,000MW is offline at the moment against 5,000MW of planned outages due to maintenance. Welcome to stage six of hell.

South Africa has been thrown into the unprecedented stage of stage six load shedding because an electrical supply panel at Medupi power station burned out on Monday, a source told Business Maverick. Another source told Business Maverick that the plant was down.

Unit 4 was down for planned maintenance but the supply panel for the conveyor belt that takes coal to the plant burned out and it seems the whole plant is now shut down,” the source said. Eskom had not immediately responded to a request for comment.

Eskom earlier said that stage six – which takes 6,000MW out of the grid – had been implemented for the first time because of a “technical problem at Medupi power station impacting additional generation supply”.

The source also told Business Maverick that as of late Monday afternoon, Eskom’s internal systems indicated that 20,000MW were offline, 15,000MW more than the 5,000MW which should have been taken out for planned maintenance, underscoring the gravity of the crisis which may tip the economy into a recession and keep it pinned there for some time.

Eskom’s System Outlook document dated 22 July 2019 shows how the power utility planned to keep the lights on by spending up to R4.32-billion on diesel for its gas turbines by the end of December 2019. According to the document, leaked to the Daily Maverick earlier this year, the week of 9 December 2019 was always going to be tricky, given planned outages for maintenance and unplanned outages.

And that’s where Monday’s burn-out of the electrical supply panel at Medupi comes in.

According to the July 2019 Eskom System Outlook document, it’s back into green only on Saturday 14 December, although that may now change given the extent of Monday’s power output collapse. BM

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