Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Eskom pledges to keep the lights on for the local government elections

Electrical transmission pylons are silhouetted as the sun rises at dawn in the Saulsville township, Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter have apologised to the nation for plunging it deeper into darkness. On Wednesday, Eskom ramped up load-shedding from stage 2 to stage 4 as more of the utility’s electricity generating units deteriorated.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has boldly promised that intensified load-shedding will be over at the weekend and the upcoming local government elections will not be disrupted by SA’s electricity supply crisis.

 Gordhan said “everything possible will be done” to keep the lights on over the next few days as voters will head to the polls on 1 November. This includes the emergency release of 2,000MW to the national grid over the next few days.

 “We have a good few days ahead of us and the elections will be a success without electricity disruptions,” said Gordhan on Wednesday evening during a press briefing also attended by Eskom executives.

 Gordhan and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter have apologised to the nation for plunging it deeper into darkness.

 On Wednesday, Eskom ramped up load-shedding from stage 2 to stage 4 as more of the utility’s electricity generating units broke down.

 Over the past 24 hours, each unit at Eskom’s Medupi, Kusile and Matla power stations have tripped, while a unit each at Lethabo and Arnot power stations were forced to shut down, the power utility said in a statement.

 Eskom’s power station performance, as measured by the Energy Availability Factor (EAF), was between 64% and 65% on Wednesday. Eskom requires an EAF of at least 70% for its power stations to perform optimally. Eskom’s total breakdowns now stand at 14,957MW, while planned maintenance is 5,301MW of capacity.

 Load-shedding has returned with a vengeance, causing a further disruptions for an economy that is still recovering from Covid-19 related lockdowns. The power cuts have intensified on a day that matriculants started their 2021 exams and a few days before the start of local government elections.

 Gordhan has unveiled an ambitious roadmap to restore electricity supply to the country over the next few days.

 As more generating units come on stream, about 2,000MW of electricity is expected to be released to the national grid. Gordhan said as more units are added, load-shedding will be downgraded from stage 4 to stage 3 from Thursday. By Friday, Gordhan has promised that SA will be placed on load-shedding stage 2.

 “At the weekend, load-shedding will stop. On Monday, during the countitng of votes, and over the next few days, there will be no load-shedding unless there is an unexpected event,” Gordhan said. He didn’t elaborate on what the “unexpected event” entails.

 Gordhan said Eskom will continue with its maintenance efforts of power stations during the local government elections to keep plant breakdowns to a minimum. Gordhan also said the Eskom board has been instructed to deploy more skilled engineers to support existing staff and help them to keep the lights on during the elections.

 Gordhan said over the next 24 hours, his department will approach the National Treasury to seek exemptions that will pave the way for Eskom to acquire additional expertise that will support the power utility’s existing staff.

 Gordhan and Eskom executives have failed to take full responsibility for the intensified load-shedding in recent years, which even included SA being placed under an unprecedented stage 6 load shedding in January 2020.

 “Of course we take responsibility. But we are taking responsibility in correcting the situation and understanding what went wrong,” said Gordhan.

 Arguably the problems at Eskom are well defined and audited. For instance, despite acknowledging that renewable energy is the cheapest way to plug electricity supply shortages, no new single megawatt has been added to the power grid over the past two years.

 For the latest breakdown in Eskom’s power stations, De Ruyter doesn’t believe that the electricity shortage crisis is a direct result of “deliberate acts of sabotage”.

 “But it [the power cuts] involves cable theft and criminal activity that hampers activity at power stations,” he admitted. DM/BM

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  • Johan Buys says:

    Elsewhere it was reported that Eskom made 100 small standby generators available to support the election.

    It would be funny if it were another country whose national electricity utility resorts to supplying small standby generators. And expect to be congratulated.

    • Alan Watkins says:

      Apparently for the upcoming local government elections on Nov 1 2021 there are 23151 voting stations. 100 wil not be enough, 1000 will not be enough, 10 000 might be enough FOR THIS PURPOSE if and only if Eskom loadsheds in the areas covered by the 10 000 standby generators while keeping the lights on 100% of the time across the rest of the country covered by the other 13151 voting stations.

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