Cape Town – Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona said on Tuesday that the cause for the country’s recent load shedding was due to logistical challenges regarding diesel.

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Speaking for the first time on the subject of load shedding at his inaugural interim results announcement, Matona said: “For the period ahead we’ll be living on the edge.”

“The majority of our plants are very, very old,” he said. “They need attention. It’s attention that cannot be achieved overnight.”

“We’ve had load losses at a number of our plants which reflects the age of these plants.”

Electricity demand met

Matona said the power system continued to be significantly constrained. “Notwithstanding that, apart from three load shedding events over three evening peaks in June 2014, electricity demand was met during the six months to 30 September 2014.”

“Demand was adequately met during the day, and although evening peaks were tight, sufficient generation capacity and emergency reserves were available to meet the demand.

“This was achieved through alternative supply side options and the utilisation of the open-cycle gas turbine stations. However, it must be noted that Eskom is no longer able to keep the light on at all costs as this has dire consequences on the health of the plant,” said Matona.

Eskom has kept the lights on for the longest period ever, when the conditions of the plants could not bear it, said Matona. “We need this to be a problem for all of us,” he said.

The nature of the capacity challenge changes from the evening peak in winter to a constraint throughout the day during summer. Eskom embarks on load shedding as a last resort to prevent a longer, more damaging shutdown of the entire system, which would negatively impact the economy.

Summer is a maintenance season, and coupled with the recent Majuba silo collapse, load shedding cannot be ruled out as a controlled way of protecting the national grid from a total collapse or blackout.

Medupi Unit 6 on target

Matona said that Medupi Unit 6 is set to be completed by the end of this year, despite suggestions by some Fin24 sources that it would be delayed. “That still remains the target,” he said. “I’m satisfied that we have achieved that milestone of bringing Medupi 6 online.”

READ: More Eskom woes expected

With regard to the Majuba silo collapse, Matona said: “I’ve been very impressed with the way that Eskom promptly rose to the challenge.”

“Eskom has been at 70% capacity during the Majuba outage,” he said. “It’s important to note that coal is being delivered to Majuba.”