First proper cold test Eskom

Henry

Members of Solidarity with inside knowledge of Eskom say that phase 6 is expected to be implemented in the next three to five days.

Dr. Dirk Hermann, chief executive of Solidarity, warns that the next week will therefore be a challenging one for Eskom.

“The cold weather tried resources, but could be dealt with. Unfortunately, Eskom has lost generating units since Monday, which puts further pressure on the system. It will take at least three to five days to restore some of the generating units and reserves.”

Eskom is also apparently in danger of losing more generation units due to breakdowns.

However, Hermann says that Solidarity’s members at Eskom do not expect load shedding to be higher than phase 6 in the coming days. “The sudden higher phase is precisely to build up reserves so that higher phases are not needed now.”

Eskom announced on Wednesday morning that phase 6 will be implemented from Wednesday at 16:00, and will alternate with phase 4.

Samantha Graham-Maré, the DA’s spokesperson on electricity, reminds, however, that Dr. Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramakgopa said just a few days ago that he does not expect any increase in load shedding.

Graham-Maré says the minister did not play open cards and was caught out after the cold front hit the country.

Cold first real test

Graham-Maré says the shivering weather was the first real test of Eskom’s ability to withstand the winter demand for electricity.

“We were informed (earlier) that the lower phases of load shedding were due to a lower than expected electricity demand… But then, with the first real winter temperatures, the higher demand immediately kicked load shedding into a higher gear.

“It was certainly a welcome relief to have limited load shedding for the past month, but it appears that the reasons for it, as well as the power supplier’s ability to maintain it, are questionable.”

The minister said at the beginning of the month that the average available generation capacity is around 29,000MW – far less than the maximum expected demand of as much as 34,000MW.

The minister said this shows that there has been a turning point in the fight against load shedding. “We are starting to see results,” were the minister’s words.

Ten days later and load shedding is again at phase 6, says Graham-Maré.

“What is further disturbing about the perceived improvement in Eskom’s ability to deal with the energy crisis is that billions of rands are literally being burned in an attempt to keep the phases of load shedding low, as open cycle gas turbines use massive amounts of diesel to power the country of to provide power.

“This is financially and technically unsustainable, apart from the fact that it is a somewhat dishonest attempt to hide the critical state of our energy infrastructure.”

RNews earlier reported that Ramokgopa also attributes the reduction in load shedding to the improvement in generation capacity – which makes it possible to carry out planned maintenance work at Eskom’s power stations.

The minister said last week that this makes it possible to “balance” the situation.

However, Graham-Maré now says “false figures” will not solve the crisis. “We need the truth if we want to find real, long-term and sustainable solutions.”