A breather for Eskom: Critical repairs being done during lockdown as demand plummets

Eskom says it will be using the lockdown period to conduct essential maintenance on its plants, as high consumers have slowed or halted operations. 

The state-owned power utility, which has been forced to implement load shedding intermittently as it battled frequent breakdowns at its aging plants, has not cut power since the beginning of the 21-day lockdown on Thursday, and says it does not anticipate having to do so.

Since the beginning of the lockdown period, there has been a reduction in demand of some 7 500 MW.

The unprecedented shutdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa is a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Large electricity users such as mines and smelters have shut down, while many companies have instructed employees to work from home, reducing pressure on the grid.

Eskom has taken some generation units off the grid and placed them on standby during lockdown.

"We are also taking advantage of this downturn to carry out critical repairs and maintenance in our power stations and other infrastructure," the utility said in a statement on Monday.

Eskom's aging fleet of coal-fired power stations are in need of repair, leading to frequent breakdowns, and the power utility has had to use diesel generators to keep the lights on, at a high cost.

In January, Eskom said it anticipated having to implement frequent load shedding for around 18 months. 

The national lockdown will expire on April 16.

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