A scant 24 hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa confidently declared the end of load shedding was nigh in his State of the Nation Address (Sona), nine burst boiler tubes at Eskom coal-fired power stations put the country into stage 6 load shedding, making a mockery of the president’s promise. North-West University political analyst Prof André Duvenhage said it was widely known Eskom had been misused for political purposes in the past, and the power utility would now be a role player in the upcoming general election. “The workings or not workings of Eskom may be a decisive factor in the…
A scant 24 hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa confidently declared the end of load shedding was nigh in his State of the Nation Address (Sona), nine burst boiler tubes at Eskom coal-fired power stations put the country into stage 6 load shedding, making a mockery of the president’s promise.
North-West University political analyst Prof André Duvenhage said it was widely known Eskom had been misused for political purposes in the past, and the power utility would now be a role player in the upcoming general election.
“The workings or not workings of Eskom may be a decisive factor in the way the people’s political behaviour in terms of voting may take place,” he said.
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Duvenhage said it would be interesting to see how Eskom managed this but the escalation of load shedding was also a huge setback for Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
“This was indicating that he is just an add on in the Presidency and he is a guy with no influence,” he said.
ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula cried sabotage over Eskom ramping up stages of load shedding on social media platform X: “Stage 6 load shedding [is] clear sabotage. Strong extra security measures are needed.”
Duvenhage said the possibility of deliberate misconduct by forces within Eskom to deliberately derail the president could not be excluded as a possibility.
“It is not a statement I make, but rather a vague observation, that the electricity crises we are experiencing are coinciding with other important political events in many cases at the expense of the president,” he said.
“There may be a bit of truth in what Mbalula is suggesting.”
‘Short term pain, long term gain’
Ramokgopa said on Sunday Eskom was working around the clock to return to at least stage 4 load shedding by Wednesday.
Stage 6 load shedding was a result of “calculated risks” by Eskom and his department, he said.
Nine “boiler tube leaks” had resulted in 4 400MW being taken out of commission.
A single unit could generate more than 600MW and the breakdown involved a cluster of these units failing simultaneously, a lot of them big units, he said.
“So, Lethabo, Matimba, Duvha and Majuba [power stations] had units going out.
“When you combine them with Grootvlei, Camden, Lethabo 5 and Kriel, 4 400MW went out over that period of two days.
“To use the nomenclature of load shedding, it is like four levels of load shedding were essentially imposed on us as a result of these boiler tube leaks,” he said.
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“Boiler tube leaks are one of our biggest risk areas, and we have taken the position as Eskom management to address these leaks as a major concern.
“[We] are working directly with the original equipment manufacturers. Two of these boiler tube leaks have already been fixed, and their units have been returned to service.
“The remaining 3 400MW of boiler tube-related outages are expected to be back in operation by Wednesday. This weekend has been a setback, but we will recover and over time, these setbacks will become smaller and smaller.”
He said planned maintenance was still at about 7 000MW.
“We are calling it planned maintenance because… the engine is out, they are fixing it. And we don’t cut corners. Short term pain, long term gain.”
Units to return
Ramokgopa said a significant number of units were expected to come back towards the beginning and end of next month.
He added the other variable which had “connived to undermine the intensity of load shedding” was that, from last week, Eskom had not been receiving a lot of megawatts from its solar PV or from wind.
“When we do the projection, we also make certain assumptions in relation to what are the megawatts that we are likely going to receive from the renewables and they have not been able to give the kind of megawatts that we had anticipated because of the climatic conditions,” Ramokgopa said.
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