Load shedding: ‘Stage 6 remains a possibility for the coming festive season’ – Analyst

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The simultaneous breaking down of Eskom’s generating units should not be normalised and should, therefore, not be accepted as the new normal.

This is according to energy analyst Chris Yelland, who was reacting to the performance of the national power grid this week.

This comes as South Africans continue to bear the brunt of relentless load shedding.

ESKOM’S PERFORMANCE OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS:

Friday, 14 October

Due to lower weekend demand, load shedding was suspended the previous Friday, but was again implemented unexpectedly the following day.

Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Eskom announced the continuation of stage 4 and that it would be downgraded to stage 2 the following day, but the situation took a turn for the worst.

Thursday, 20 October

Then came the shocker of the week when the power utility announced that five generating units broke down, exacerbating the issue of generation capacity shortages, forcing the escalation of load shedding.

Thursday, 20 October
Despite earlier communication that stage 3 will be suspended by Friday morning, Eskom announced on Thursday that stage 3 will remain implemented until further notice due to a delay in the return to service of a generating unit each at Duvha, Grootvlei, Kendal and two units at Tutuka power stations, as well as breakdowns of a unit each at Kusile and Komati power stations.

What is even more worrying is that one of the newest coal-fired power stations Kusile remains out of service.

“I think the reasons are a mix of ageing, damaged plants and the inability do deep level maintenance for a number of reasons, including that there is no space (no generation reserve capacity) to do this, and criminality of course,” Yelland said.

Yelland is also of the view that the time has come for Eskom to protect its assets in a more aggressive manner.

He said Eskom needs to call in private sector asset protection outfits such as Bidvest Protea Coin and others.

Apart from old aged power stations which have been performing dismally, the power utility has also been confronted with another challenge of theft where its own employees are implicated.

In recent incidents which happened this week, three cleaning contractors working at the Matla Power Station were arrested for stealing copper cables while an employee was arrested for the removal of ten drums of hydraulic oil from the on-site stores facility.

However, another energy analyst Ted Blom says it is not unusual for five different generating units to break down at the same time.

Blom says it does not help being dramatic, stressing that everything that is going wrong at Eskom should be blamed on the power utility’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Andre de Ruyter.

“These breakdowns are all planned and this will continue until such time the management of Eskom is replaced.

“Theft happens everyday and the incidents we heard of this week, is just petty theft that is driven by  syndicates and it is all because of the poverty government has put us under… Eskom is a target driven by syndicates,” said Blom.

He said Eskom is already performing 20% below its own projection, adding that the coming Festive season will see South Africans continuing to be plunged into darkness with a good chance for stage 6 load shedding.

Just last month Eskom implemented stage 6.

Meanwhile, when approached for comment, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha only commented on the issue of theft, saying Eskom security is provided by private suppliers who get selected in a competitive tender process.

Stephen Tau/ The Citizen