Load shedding: Bulldozers now used to transport coal

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Eskom is investigating why a conveyor belt carrying coal from the Grootgeluk Coal Mine to Medupi Power Station in Limpopo has failed, a spokesperson confirmed.

Speaking to Fin24 by phone on Thursday morning, Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said that the failure of the conveyor belt on Saturday, October 12, was "unexpected". Mothae said that it would take about a week for it to be repaired. 

Mothae confirmed that the coal was now  transported with bulldozers between the mine and Medupi, a distance of around 11km. But the bulldozers can only manage half the load usually transported by using the conveyor belt, she confirmed.

On Wednesday, Eskom said Medupi was only producing a third of its usual output.

Mothae pointed out that although Medupi is a new power station, there have been ongoing construction defects. "There are issues on terms of how it was constructed," she said. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan previously said that both Kusile - in Mpumalanga, and Medupi were "badly designed and badly constructed," Bloomberg reported.

Diesel levels recovering

Following the failure of the conveyor belt on Saturday, Eskom had relied on open cycle gas turbines to meet energy demands, Fin24 previously reported. In its statement Eskom indicated that its diesel  stocks - which fuel the gas turbines – were running low. But on Thursday Mothae confirmed that diesel supplies had been improving, after Eskom reached out to all of its suppliers for assistance.

Eskom on Wednesday announced that stage 2 load shedding would be implemented due to a shortage of electricity capacity. Late last night the power utility confirmed that stage 2 load shedding would be implemented again on Thursday between 09:00 and 23:00.

Stage 2 load shedding allows for 2 000 MW of power to be shed on a rotational basis. Stage 1 is the "lightest" load shedding schedule, while during Stage 4, up to 4 000 MW of power can be shed.

FIND: Your load shedding schedule 

Meanwhile, Parliament's Standing Committee on Appropriations recently wrapped up a site visit to Eskom's headquarters at Megawatt Park in Gauteng. The committee is considering a Special Appropriations Bill, which would see Eskom receive R59bn over two years in order to settle its debt. This is over and above the R69bn Treasury allocated the power utility for the next three years.

The committee did not comment on load shedding, but rather focused on Eskom's financial turnaround. The committee is adamant that recapitalisation from government strictly be used to service debt and interest payments and not to be used for bonuses, according to a statement issued on Wednesday night. "It (the recapitalisation) can under no circumstances be used for bonuses. The committee also emphasized that there be stringent conditions for Eskom to receive financial assistance.

The committee will meet with the Eskom month before the end of the month to share its findings and recommendations. It is concerned with the high turnover of executives. Former CEO Phakamani Hadebe left the company in July after resigning due to "unimaginable demands" of the job impacting his health. 

Board chairperson Jabu Mabuza has been serving as acting CEO, while a search for a permanent CEO continues.

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