Durban – The “human error” that led to one of the units at Koeberg suddenly shutting down last Sunday — removing 900 megawatts from the power grid for a week – cost the country’s economy at least R7.5bn.

This is the estimate of energy specialist Chris Yelland.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe on Monday told Netwerk 24 that workers erecting scaffolding last Sunday to prepare for maintenance planned for this week accidentally touched the main generator transformer at Unit 1 of the Koeberg power station.

Phasiwe said this caused a limited earth fault and the reactor had to be shut down immediately to prevent it burning out.

Yelland said after the accident Eskom had to start up its gas turbines, which run on diesel, to make up the 900 MW.

“The additional cost of the diesel to generate power for 12 hours per day, seven days per week amounted to about R250m. This was Eskom’s loss.”

The loss that the economy suffered, was about R7.5bn because Eskom had to implement Phase 2 load shedding on the Monday morning.

Phasiwe said technicians worked up to Wednesday to restart the reactor at Koeberg, but when they synchronised the reactor with the national grid on Thursday at about 20:00, a short circuit happened in the turbine.

Technicians then decided to keep the reactor shut off until Monday, when maintenance work was scheduled to start on the system.
The work will be finished at the end of May, Phasiwe said.

Yelland said Phase 1 loadshedding costs the national economy about R20bn per month, Phase 2 about R40bn and Phase 3 some R80bn.

Meanwhile Roman Cookes, Eskom’s project manager at Medupi, said in a statement on Sunday that Medupi will synchronise its first power output with the national grid at the end of March.

This synchronisation was originally scheduled for mid-February, but again had to be postponed by six weeks, Yelland said.
Phasiwe said the first unit generating 800 MW from Medupi will still start working in June.

Yelland said it takes at least six months to synchronise a unit and warned Eskom would not be able to slot Medupi’s power output into the grid in just three months.

Meanwhile, the DA has called on the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) not to increase electricity tariffs to help solve Eskom’s financial problems, which the DA said stem from the electricity supplier’s own administrative incompetence.

The DA’s deputy spokesperson on finance David Ross on Monday said he had met on Friday with Mbulelo Ncetezo, the executive manager of Nersa, on Eskom’s financial crisis.

Ross said as things stand now, South Africans have to brace themselves for an increase of 12.69% in electricity tariffs.

Ross said Eskom needs R225nn and is currently paying R2bn for diesel a month, which is increasing this debt.