Load shedding could last for days

Given everything that went wrong at Eskom's various power stations, the current load shedding crisis could last at least for a couple of days, Chris Yelland, energy analyst and managing director at EE Publishers, has told Fin24.

Eskom itself expects that load shedding could last a week, according to chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer. He told talk radio station 702 on Wednesday morning that if the system improves, Eskom will relieve load shedding where it can.

"[At] this point in time, realistically, we believe the situation will continue for the next week," he said.

Earlier, Eskom issued a statement indicating it would implement stage 2 load shedding between 09:00 and 23:00 on Wednesday.

Yelland says Eskom’s communication thus far appears to indicate that six power-generating units are now down as a result of boiler tube leaks.

A fraction of capacity

Apart from those outages, the conveyor feeding coal between Exxaro’s Grootegeluk mine to the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, broke down on Saturday. It’s still not working and Medupi is running at a third of its capacity.

The mine is 8.4km away from the power station.

Exxaro executive head of stakeholder affairs Mzila Mthenjane has directed questions posed by Fin24 to Eskom, as the failure was not on Exxaro's belt. Eskom is yet to respond to Fin24's queries.

There are also technical problems at the Grootvlei power station near Balfour in Mpumalanga, according to Yelland.

One Koeberg unit is down for refuelling, which took 900MW of power out of the equation. But the situation at Koeberg is different from the rest, as it’s part of a planned shutdown, says Yelland. It usually takes two to three months to refuel a reactor.

In all, the unplanned breakdowns now amount to 10 500MW.

Since Saturday, Eskom has been relying on open cycle gas turbines "extensively" to make up for the electricity shortfall. But now the diesel stocks that fuel these turbines are running low. It also used pumped storage hydro electrical plants, but dam levels supplying these plants in the Drakensberg are also not high enough. 

These two options are only supposed to be used in emergencies, and not intended for extensive usage, says Yelland.

The Department of Public Enterprises has said it will not be issuing a statement on the matter at this stage.

Compiled by Lameez Omarjee and Helena Wasserman

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