What you need to know about Eskom’s latest power woes

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Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has warned of more rolling blackouts this winter. Photo: Deon Raath/Gallo Images
Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has warned of more rolling blackouts this winter. Photo: Deon Raath/Gallo Images

NEWS


Like clockwork every winter, Eskom struggles to keep the lights on, and this winter is no different.

South Africans will have to contend with many more bouts of rolling blackouts during the cold, wet months.

Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from 5pm on Tuesday until 5am on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Eskom announced that it had been hit by further unit failures necessitating rolling blackouts into the Easter weekend.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said the current system challenges made avoiding power outages impossible.

“Eskom would like to inform the public that this constrained supply situation will persist throughout the week, with the possibility that more load shedding will be implemented should the generation capacity deteriorate further.”

On Tuesday, De Ruyter briefed the media about the ailing power utility’s latest challenges. Here’s everything you need to know:

Tripping units

Eskom experienced several outages at its power stations on Monday night. While some returned to service, it was not enough to keep the lights on, prompting a last-minute announcement of load shedding.

Trips were reported at Medupi, Lethabo and Camden power stations.

Medupi’s unit 5 tripped due to a steam heater leak. While the unit at Medupi returned to service overnight, three generating units at the Camden Power Station tripped during the night, contributing to the current shortage of capacity and subsequent load shedding.

Gas reserves

Eskom has 70% diesel reserves at its open cycle gas turbine for peak hours and emergency use. This is enough to keep all units running for 24 hours. However, it is not sufficient, as diesel needs to be transported by road to the plants by road.

De Ruyter said:

We want to avoid using diesel as much as possible.

Wet weather

The torrential rain that has battered KwaZulu-Natal has also contributed to the utility’s challenges.

A significant amount of debris has clogged up the Drakensberg pump storage facility. The Ingura Dam is also excessively full.

 De Ruyter explained:

To run a pump storage facility, you need two dams. You need one dam full and the other empty, as this allows you to then run water downhill through the turbine to generate electricity.

Positive outlook

Despite the strain on the power grid and unplanned outages, De Ruyter said it’s not all doom and gloom.

“The outlook for winter is not entirely dire, but we do need to bring those units back and we need to make sure that we enable the capacity to stay on the grid.

READ: Eskom blames four-hour load shedding on municipalities and Zambia blackout

“While we do not have spare capacity, there’s still a risk of load shedding in winter, but we will cut back on planned maintenance.”

Weekend risk

Some units that tripped should return to service before the long weekend. However, Eskom has warned that the Camden Power Station still has issues.

It said it needed 29 815MW during peak hours, while the available capacity was 26 000MW, excluding reserves – 4 804MW was out due to maintenance, amounting to a loss of 12.23% capacity, and unplanned outages have resulted in a loss of 14 449MW.


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