As maintenance work at Eskom plants is reduced to ensure electricity supply, South Africa’s power system will remain tight this winter, the company’s acting CEO Collin Matjila said.
“The country still remains vulnerable,” Matjila told media at Eskom’s Quarterly State of the System briefing, as the country heads into winter.
Matjila said this winter, the entity anticipates that the load will increase to 36 gigawatts (GW), with maintenance expected to continue but at a lesser pace so as to ensure security of supply this winter. Last year, the peak was at 35.4 GW in June.
In the last three years, Eskom had increased maintenance work at its plants but has recently been “ramping down” maintenance work, even though it will continue. Eskom, said Matjila, is confident of its ability to supply energy over this winter period.
Matjila supported Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi’s call for South Africans to reduce their electricity usage, as the country’s power system remains severely constrained and will remain vulnerable until new power comes on board.
The utility called on the public to switch off appliances they are not using over the peak period of between 5pm and 9 pm.
“We are very tight. We cannot beat the peak alone,” said Matjila.
Eskom is going into the winter period with challenges, such as reduced imports from Cahorra Bassa twice due to transmission failure in Mozambique, as well as Unit 2 of Koeberg being taken out for refuelling and the Duvha incident in March, which took out Unit 3 at the plant.
“We continue to have challenges. Going into the period of June to August, we project that this winter is likely to be the same as the last winter. We are not expecting a severely cold winter. However, we are taking measures to ensure that we meet the demand that normally rises in winter,” said Matjila.
Eskom is beginning to see a reduced dependency by neighbouring countries on South Africa.
“This is a positive sign that we are beginning to see the SADC region putting up their own generation plants, which releases us from the obligation of supplying them with 100% of what they need,” Matjila added.
Coal stock piles at power stations are at 45 days. The minimum is 42 days.
Due to the entity carrying out maintenance work, an additional 1000 MW is now available for use over the winter period.
“As we were doing a lot of maintenance, we were then able to reduce those losses that we would otherwise inherit. We were able to save on an opportunity cost taking out our units. This has given us an additional 1000 MW that is available to assist in meeting the high demand of the winter period,” explained Matjila.
Illegal connections also pose a disruption to power supply and Eskom has taken steps to strengthen its distribution networks.
“We have to appeal to the community to help us deal with illegal electricity connections. It constraints our system even more,” he said.
Build programme on track
The build programme, he said, was continuing with progress having been made.
Earlier on Thursday, newly appointed Public Enterprises Minster Lynne Brown said the supply of adequate electricity was an important aspect to supporting economic growth, job creation and industrialisation.
Additionally, government would continue to support Eskom, even though the utility continued to face a challenge of maintaining an adequate reserve margin as new power is still to come on board.
Commenting on the first load shedding incident in six years in March, the new minister said load shedding had been a last resort for the entity.
“The decision to implement load shedding is not taken lightly,” she said, while also thanking customers for their cooperation.