Eskom says coal stocks have improved, but load shedding risk remains

Power utility Eskom says its coal stocks improved over the festive season as it also carried out maintenance at power stations, but the country's power system is still constrained and load shedding remains a risk when businesses and industrial customers return to work next week.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said by phone on Thursday that there would be a briefing on the status of the system and what is being done to handle load shedding next week.

In December, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said in an interview with Johannesburg-based Radio 702 that there were chances the debt-laden power utility might institute stage-one load shedding from January 15, as businesses which are large users of electricity get back due to re-open after the year end break.

Phasiwe echoed these views on Thursday, saying that part of the reason there was no load shedding over the festive period was because the power grid was less constrained.

In late November and early December 2018 the power utility repeatedly instituted nationwide electricity rationing due to difficulties in completing scheduled and unscheduled maintenance at power plants, as well as damage to the power transmission lines linking South Africa to the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam in Mozambique. 

Coal stocks

"Eskom continues to have coal shortages, but there is an improvement in terms of where they are," said Phasiwe on Thursday. 

In mid-November the department of public enterprises, in response to a Parliamentary question, confirmed that 12 power stations (not including Kusile and Medupi) did not have the minimum number of days of coal stored. The majority of SA's electricity is produced from coal-fired power stations. 

Phasiwe said that coal stockpiles had improved slightly to nearly 30 days. At a briefing in December, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said Eskom was working to increase stockpiles to 33 days.

Hadebe, meanwhile, previously told the portfolio committee on public enterprises in November that the power utility had secured additional contracts to supplement coal supply.

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