South Africa


Eskom’s ‘biggest challenges’ are a poorly performing coal fleet and a 62% energy capacity

Eskom’s ‘biggest challenges’ are a poorly performing coal fleet and a 62% energy capacity
Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eskom group chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer told an Eskom state of the system briefing on Wednesday that the coal fleet was the main challenge when it came to generation insufficiency. His colleague Rhulani Mathebula, acting MD generation for Eskom concurred. ‘In terms of our energy availability factor on our coal fleet, we ended the year at 55.5%, which is extremely low’.

Just before Eskom initiated Stage 2 load shedding due to the failure of three generation units, CEO André de Ruyter said in a state of the system briefing on Wednesday afternoon, “I think it’s important to emphasise that we should not accept load shedding and the lack of generation capacity as the new normal.

“While it’s been going on for 14 years now, we need to take urgent steps to address load shedding.”

This year to date we’ve had 32 days of load shedding compared with 26 days of load shedding in close to the same period last year.

As of the end March 2022, Eskom’s Energy Availability Factor — the amount of energy generation a plant is capable of supplying to the grid — was at 62%, below their target of 74% for the financial year.

The most urgent issue to be addressed is that Eskom needs at least 4,000 megawatts (MW) of additional generation capacity to serve the country’s energy demand.

It needs the space to take some of its units off for planned maintenance. Until this capacity is met, the risk of load shedding remains.

Jan Oberholzer, Eskom group chief operating officer, said in the briefing that the power utility had good performance in the network side of the business — transmission and distribution. The unsatisfactory performance remains in the generation — particularly its coal fleet.

The reasons for generation problems are rooted in lack of sufficient generation capacity, which Eskom says is aggravated by equipment age, insufficient funds for maintenance and additional system space.

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Coal the greatest challenge 

Oberholzer was quick to distinguish coal as the main challenge when it came to generation insufficiency.

“I’d like to separate the performance, and to focus on where the challenges are — and that is in the coal fleet.”

Oberholzer emphasised the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was performing well — having been online for 196 days — as well as Eskom’s open-cycle gas, pump and hydro systems.

Rhulani Mathebula, acting MD generation for Eskom said, “In terms of our energy availability factor on our coal fleet, we ended the year at 55.5%, which is extremely low.”

Oberholzer said Eskom invests R60-billion to R70-billion a year, just on coal. 

Working together

Eskom has planned to retire 22,000MW from the grid by 2035.

Oberholzer said if Eskom was going to meet the urgent deficit (of 4,000-6,000MW), and that which would be retired in the next 13 years, and grow the economy, the country would need to work together as “South Africa Incorporated”.

In response to a question on whether the government was taking the urgent need for more generation capacity seriously enough, Oberholzer said, “I believe there is a good understanding,” mentioning how in his State of the Nation Address this year President Cyril Ramaphosa made it clear that 4,000 to 6,000MW of additional generation capacity was required.

“But I believe we need to stop talking. And now we really need, as South Africa, to tackle this challenge that is facing us.”

The stakeholders are relevant government departments and private sector investment in energy — such as IPPs.

De Ruyter said that considering the urgent need for new capacity, Eskom had welcomed the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s initiative on bid windows 5 and 6 of the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement Programme.

De Ruyter said Eskom was working closely with the department and IPP offices to accelerate the implementation of IPP projects.

The war and diesel

Oberholzer said global price surges influenced by the Ukraine-Russian conflict had affected Eskom “quite significantly”, costing the power utility “between R15- and R20-billion currently in the financial year”.

Open-cycle gas turbines, used during failures in the power fleet, require diesel to run. Rhulani said the money spent on diesel was R6.4-billion for this financial year compared with R4.1-billion spent in the previous financial year. DM


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  • Chris Marshall says:

    Ho hum. How much longer must we pretend that Eskom is not dead? Like the parrot sold by the Montt Python crowd we are asked to believe that it is still alive. Lets olan our futures to live in an Eskom free world. Elon did.

  • Dragan KostaKostic says:

    Eskoms big problem is being swindled withat Medupi power station Dont pay for the piece of crapp !! Sorry wont happen will scare off investors !!

    How Eskom was fleeced: Kusile and Medupi tenders ballooned from R200m to more than R20bn

    Eskom has launched a series of investigations to determine how project management fees for the construction of two of its power stations, Kusile and Medupi, ballooned from R200 million to more than R20 billion.
    In a presentation by Eskom’s chief procurement officer, Solly Tshitangano, to MPs last week, he revealed that during the mid-2000s, Eskom had contracted US engineering firm Black & Veatch and engineering consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, Africa (PB Africa) at a cost of R200 million – but ended up paying the two firms more than R20 billion because of variations in the scope of work at both Kusile and Medupi.

  • Peter Doble says:

    The ANC with its nationalised socialist dogmatic approach has known of and ignored the looming crisis for 25 years. Why now would it change track? The answers and technology are obvious. Private sector input through nuclear, solar and wind farming. (The UK generates as much power from wind as the entire SA national grid requirement)

  • Brian Cotter says: Slide 52/54 shows the bottom line slide of anticipated power outages. This is our real state of Eskom news that we are in very deep and going nowhere unless Gwede gets his Department going. When Gwede produced his IRP 2019 Electricity Integrated Resource Plan 2019 document which seems to be the only “plan” on the table it only proves he had absolutely no clue in bringing projects on line with all the processes and procedures needed and the promise of 2 years for new plant will be in operation has been going on for a few years now. Has the Presidential Project Management team been set up to start covering up all of his shortcomings. Where is the “S” curve, with plan and actual, for the new supply coming on line with baseline being 2019 Plan. Excuses from Gwede all the time. Publish the curve and talk around that. It seems dR and O have to speak softly about new IPP otherwise political sabres will be branded down and their heads will be on a pole in the market square. New Nuclear, till 2030, is not in the plan, apart from Gwede telling his employees to leave if they don’t agree with him. When is Revision 1 coming out of this EIRP.

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