News | South Africa | Load Shedding
Don’t worry about wet coal because we have it covered, Eskom spokesman Sikonathi Mantshantsha told
The Citizen last month, as South Africa faced yet another weekend of Stage 2 rolling blackouts – because of wet coal.
Mantshantsha said at the time that in the past year and a half, the power utility had put a great deal
of preparation into dealing with wet weather – yet someone appeared to have forgotten to work out how to keep coal dry in Eskom’s shiny, new, overbudget, over deadline R234 million (in 2019) coal-fired Medupi power plant.
He also added on Monday power stations in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which were in the path of tropical storm Eloise, were able to operate with minimal impact during heavy rain and storms, signifying the success of the “wet coal” project.
Despite the successes against inclement weather, load shedding began on Friday and is expected to end on Sunday at 11pm.
According to Eskom, the load shedding was worsened by the forced shutdown of five generating units at the “high-tech” Medupi, the fourth-largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world, due to “the
inability to get coal into the units due to the heavy rain in the Lephalale area on Thursday night”.
Lephalale experienced 65mm of rain, which added to the constraints caused by the heavy rain due to the cyclone over the past two weeks.
EE Business Intelligence managing director Chris Yelland said it was unacceptable Eskom blamed heavy rain for its failing power systems.
“There’s nothing unusual about rain in summer. The system should be resilient enough to cater for normal and abnormal weather patterns. Power systems should be designed and operated with sufficient resilience to withstand most environmental conditions,” he said.
Yelland said it was “horrifying” Medupi Power Station was experiencing this problem.
“You don’t expect a power station as big as Medupi to be affected by rain. The fact that it is, is a sad indictment of the current state of the power system, which has not had any spare generation capacity and doesn’t have sufficient resilience to withstand normal weather patterns.”
Institute of Race Relations’ John Endres said Eskom’s problem was not the rain but its non-existent generating capacity.
“The energy availability factor which measures available electricity generation as a share of maximum electricity generation, was only 57 in the first month of 2021 (down from 65 in 2020).
“This gives Eskom almost no scope to handle unexpected outages like the one that occurred at Medupi.
“We’ll be stuck with load shedding until the [electric arc furnace] increases substantially – and that requires a huge effort from Eskom,” said Endres.
Eskom said it had implemented “contingency plans” and deployed “additional resources” to deal with the heavy rain in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo areas.
When asked what the “contingency plans” were, Mantshantsha did not reply.
As of Friday, Eskom had 4,114MW on planned maintenance, while another 15,739MW of capacity unavailable due to unplanned maintenance.
The utility needs roughly 30,000MW to keep the country ticking over.
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