For a long time, it seemed like load shedding would remain a thing of the past. However, as Eskom continues to run into problems caused by poor maintenance and management, South Africans are being plunged back into darkness, with no word from the national power utility on how long load shedding is expected to last.
Eskom has been undersupplied by nearly four million tons of coal from Gupta-owned mines for two years and neglected to enforce any consequences. Now, with the damage already done, it has chosen to implement a R2.6-billion penalty against the Gupta mines for ”persistent undersupply”, exposing the power utility’s failure over the two-year period to enforce contractual agreements with its supplier.
Earlier this year in September Eskom announced that its coal reserves were dangerously low and that at least 10 of its power stations were only expected to last a further 10 more days on the supply at the time.
On top of this, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) recently granted the struggling public enterprise permission to hike electricity tariffs in April 2019. The hike will push up the price of electricity by 10-19.4%.
On Wednesday December 5, Eskom announced that stage 2 load shedding would remain in place due to breakdowns requiring continued service. The utility reports that its maintenance teams are working hard to bring the units back to service. 2000MW will need to be rotationally load shed country-wide at given periods.
On November 16, Eskom held a briefing where a strategy to deal with the current power generation capacity challenges was outlined.
According to Eskom, current load shedding problems will not die down anytime soon.
“The power system will remain constrained for the foreseeable future, until generation plant performance and coal stock levels improve,” Eskom said.
The public electricity utility also announced a nine-point plan has been implemented to address Eskom’s key operational challenges. These plans include fixing a new plant as well as full load losses and trips, repairing units on long-term forced outages and boiler tube leaks, correcting outage durations and slips, realigning human capital and preparing for increased open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) usage, preparing for rain, and restoring coal stock piles.
Locals continue to deal with difficulties caused by the erratic outages, which often do not go according to schedule. The schedules themselves are difficult to read and not user-friendly.
With the present conditions the country can expect to continue dealing with load shedding well into 2019.
Schedules are available on the Eskom website (http://loadshedding.eskom.co.za). Eskom customers can also contact the utility’s customer contact centre at 086 003 7566.