Coronavirus ate into Eskom revenues - but the lights (mostly) stayed on

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Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter (DEON RATH)
Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter (DEON RATH)

The probability of Stage 1 load shedding was reduced to a mere three days for the first quarter of the year, thanks to lockdown.

According to a presentation from Eskom CEO André De Ruyter on Wednesday evening to parliament's portfolio and select committees of public enterprises, Covid-19 gave the power utility a chance to implement short-term opportunity maintenance of some plants.

Prior to the lockdown, Eskom had estimated as much as 31 days of Stage 1 load shedding. But as of 27 April, this estimate was down to three days. "We are taking advantage of the unfortunate circumstances associated with this pandemic," said De Ruyter. "Through our short term maintenance efforts created additional buffer capacity of 2 000 MW," he said.

Eskom has also made progress in procuring additional capacity from entities which have spare capacity a well as from renewable energy independent power producers, of about 900 MW. The procurement of additional capacity and demand maintenance efforts have helped reduce the likelihood of loadshedding during winter.

De Ruyter said Eskom saw a "drastic" drop in demand by an average of 7 500 MW. As major industries, including mining, shut down, Eskom was impacted by a reduction in sales, De Ruyter noted.

"We will see a reduction in cash generation in April of R2.5 billion," said De Ruyter. However, the full financial impact of Covid-19 and its restrictions is still to be fully assessed.

De Ruyter said Eskom was unable to conduct reliability maintenance, which requires longer shut down periods of plants. Additionally, the restriction on the movements of people, particularly contractors from abroad also impacted Eskom's plans. This longer term maintenance will resume when the lockdown is lifted. It could last between 12 to 18 months, said De Ruyter.

For example, technicians from France are needed to address the challenges at Koeberg, he said. However, Eskom has had "support" from the Department of Health and the Department of Mineral Resources and energy and is making "headway" in this regard.

Unbundling

In terms of the unbundling of Eskom, boards have been appointed for each of the entities - transmission, generation and transmission.

Eskom, however, is still working on developing the allocation of its R450 billion debt to each of the divisions, De Ruyter said. 

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