Eskom: 'Electricity grid is stable'

Cape Town – State power utility Eskom told Parliament that the country's electricity grid was "stable", as SA heads into the winter months when electricity usage increases. 

At a briefing before the standing committee on appropriations on Thursday, Eskom board member Neli Magubane addressed concerns that the electricity system is constrained and there may be a possibility of load shedding.

"Some media reports talk of a constrained system and are asking questions of load shedding. We would like to state the electricity grid is stable," she told the committee.

Eskom had issued a statement on Wednesday indicating a risk of coal stockpiles running low at seven power stations. These are Arnot, Tutuka, Majuba, Hendrina, Camden, Kriel and Komati. Stockpile levels for these stations are below the required target of 20 days, as stipulated in Eskom's grid code.

Magubane said on Thursday that Eskom has plans in place to manage its primary energy resources and to achieve healthy stock piles across its power stations.

While Eskom said in its statement Wednesday that stockpiles were low at seven stations, Magubane said on Thursday that total current coal stockpile levels were at 35 days, excluding Medupe and Kusile power stations.

The power utility's state of readiness for the winter months and further details around coal stockpile levels are set to be unpacked at a briefing on May 3. 

Magubane said the bulk of the maintenance of the electricity system was done in the summer to try and ensure stability during the winter. 

The system has been in a "credible state" between the latter part of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, she said.

But the power utility is running open gas turbines to meet demand. 

Last week Willy Majola, acting group executive of transmission at Eskom, told the portfolio committee on public enterprises that coal stockpiles were low. He said the situation had been made worse because Gupta-linked company Tegeta has gone into business rescue. The company runs mines that supply coal to three stations.

Thava Govender, group executive of generation, said at the same briefing that Eskom could not guarantee that there would never be load shedding again. Load shedding can be caused by various issues such as plant failures or weather patterns, among other things, he told the committee. "We are trying to get the stockpile at a healthy level as we go into winter. Some plans have not materialised. We are working to see how to get coal procured."

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