Millions needed to fix Eskom plant as stage 8 load shedding looms: report

State power utility Eskom needs R594 million to fix design defects at its R135 billion Medupi power station, the Sunday Times reports.

This is on top of the R2.5 billion needed to fix unit 4 of the power plant, damaged in an explosion last year, the paper reported.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told the Sunday Times: “The cost of fixing the [design] defects is at R594 million for the Medupi project. The liability is still to be determined.”

It comes as the state company moved to stage 4 load shedding on Saturday (21 May), citing higher demand than anticipated, while some units tripped, it said.

Eskom revised this to stage 2 on Sunday morning, with stage 3 still planned for the evening peak.

Independent energy analyst Mike Rossouw warned that the country could soon see stage 8 load shedding, with power station breakdowns occurring so frequently that Eskom is unable to predict energy availability for a few hours ahead.

“Eskom is focusing so much on breakdowns and so little on maintenance they don’t have a clue what’s happening that’s why we have levels 1, 2 and 3.”

Stage 8 would see consumers without power for 12 hours each day.

“The current energy availability factor for the entire fleet is probably 50% or less. Maintenance hardly gets to 10% maybe 7%, and breakdowns account for 20% or more. So your breakdowns are more than double the maintenance,” he said.

“There is no sign of recovery. This year [load-shedding] is worse than it’s ever been and Eskom has lost control.”

Another energy analyst, professor Sampson Mamphweli, told ENCA: “For each stage of load shedding, we lose R500 million to the economy (during the week). This is about 3% of GDP over a year.”

Demand has been higher than even Eskom expected, he said, which paints a worrying picture.”There is a possibility for a higher stage of load shedding…we could see stage 5 load shedding soon.

“We have a power system that breaks down, and it’s very unpredictable at the moment. These breakdowns are anything – from trips, to boiler issues.”

He said he could not rule out the possibility of stage 8 load shedding.

Johannesburg executive mayor Mpho Phalatse warned of a potential energy “emergency”, saying the city’s residents and businesses may not realise what a knife-edge Johannesburg is sitting on.

Minister for the Department of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, said earlier this week that Eskom is taking urgent steps to improve the performance of generation.

Presenting his Budget Vote for the 2022/23 financial year, Gordhan said that Eskom’s generation is under-performing with the Energy Availability Factor languishing at 58% YTD, as opposed to a target of 75%.

He said that the incident of cable theft at the Hendrina Power Station, by people suspected to work at the plant, is along with several other incidents the reason that millions of South Africans have had to sit in the dark this week.

The minister said that a lack of engineering and technical skills and experience in Eskom also remains a significant challenge. “These are pre-requisites for a major industrial operation like Eskom.”

Read: Eskom lacks engineering and technical skills: Gordhan

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