Eskom has announced that its coal reserves are dangerously low and at least 10 of their power stations are expected to last 10 more days on the current supply. The public enterprise’s reserves will only be able to provide coal for between 10 to 21 more days.
These include the Arnot, Hendrina and Tutuka power stations, and goes against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) stipulation that a stockpile of coal must have at least a 21 day supply to prevent possible blackouts.
Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom spokesperson, said that the public enterprise had informed Nersa that the new coal contracts would soon be signed to rebuild the coal stockpiles at the affected power stations. Analysts have also warned that the shortages will put more strain on the economy as South Africa has entered a recession.
“We don’t want to mislead people and create unnecessary panic. At the time, we also don’t want to create a sense of comfort. All we can say is that the risk of load shedding is always there, but we’re managing it,” Phasiwe said.
One of Eskom’s major coal suppliers, which is owned by the Gupta family, has cut off its supply as it seeks protection from insolvency, and the parastatal is hurrying to secure contracts with other companies that can supply it with enough coal.
“Management has done relatively well in trying to keep the system alive. But it is not an ideal situation, I have to confirm. Remember we’re running a fleet of 15 coal-fired stations and out of the 15, 10 of them don’t have enough coal. So, clearly, we’re heading for deeper trouble,” Phasiwe told EWN.
Eskom plays a critical role in the country’s industrial economy, as it supplies over 90% of the country with power.
Although the power utility is running short on coal, it has announced that no part of the country will be subject to power cuts.