Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


Expect stage 8 this winter: 59% of Eskom’s coal fleet is unavailable

'The maintenance at Eskom is pathetic,' said a former general manager of system operations.

Eskom might have hit a new low yesterday as it took the country into stage 6 load shedding with more than 59% of its coal fleet unavailable, says an energy expert.

Stage 8 could be on the cards as Eskom has “breached the record for the largest shortfall” of megawatts, according to energy expert Clyde Mallinson.

Following Eskom’s announcement last night that they are ramping up load shedding to stage 6 until further notice, the power utility’s breakdowns currently amount to 21 243MW of generating capacity, while 3 566W of generating capacity is out of service for planned maintenance.

Higher load shedding stages

Eskom warned that, due to the high number of breakdowns, there was a possibility of further changes to the stages of load shedding at short notice.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha “over the past 24 hours, generating units each at Camden, Duvha and Lethabo power stations suffered breakdowns and were taken offline for repairs”.

Mantshantsha said breakdowns currently amounted to 19 385MW of generating capacity, while 3 566MW of generating capacity is out of service for planned maintenance.

Eskom’s coal fleet in shambles

However, Mallinson said with the breakdowns of generating capacity and planned maintenance, 24 000 of the fleet was offline.

“If we say about 1 000 is due to Koeberg, then about 23 000 of the coal fleet is offline, so it’s pretty close to being [the worst shortfall ever]”.

“The size of the coal fleet is 39 000. So looking only at the coal fleet, only 16 000 out of 39 000 is available, or 41%,” he said.

“So when I say it is pretty close to the worst shortfall, I mean exactly that, within 1 000MW or so of the previous maximum. If we lose one or two more units due to further breakdowns, we will definitely break previous shortfall records. There have been occasions when the combined shortfall (19 385 + 3 566 = 22 295) has been slightly greater.

“These occasions tend to happen during peak maintenance times when the planned maintenance can reach as much as 7 000MW.”

Stage 6 power cuts

Mallinson also said, like in January, “we are currently in similar territory, requiring stage 6 load shedding to avoid grid collapse”.

“As more units of the coal fleet trip or break down, the remaining units have to carry additional workload. So, they start tripping and breaking down as well.

“I am afraid we may have let things progress to such a sorry state that we may well be witnessing the so-called domino effect.”

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‘Load shedding will not go away’

Eskom’s former general manager of system operations, Robbie van Heerden, has warned of stage 8 power cuts this winter and continued load shedding for many more years.

According to The Daily Investor, Van Heerden said SA was in a very bad situation.

“Load shedding will not go away. It will not stop at the end of the year, as promised by Ramaphosa,” he said.

“Power stations are in a very bad condition. It is not the electricity networks – it is the power stations which are the problem.”

Maintenance is ‘pathetic’

He also said there were numerous challenges, including that maintenance was not done properly at power stations, “the maintenance at Eskom is pathetic”.

“There are maintenance agreements which have not been done for two years,” he said.

The Daily Investor also reported that Van Heerden’s predictions were in line with those from Intellidex’s Peter Attard Montalto and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Monique le Roux.

Montalto said South Africans should brace themselves for consistent stage 7 load shedding from July.

However, last week, Absa senior economist Peter Worthington said “from 2025 onwards, load shedding should abate significantly.”

NOW READ: Stage 8 likely due to ‘Koeberg copy-paste, spaza shop maintenance’

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