Eskom: Still in very dark woods

Staff Writer | Mar 26, 2019

South Africa has been given a respite from the load shedding that marked last week. Acting head of generation at Eskom, said that there had been ‘gradual improvements’ to the system. ‘The grid is in good shape and healthy,’ he told online news platform Fin24. 

However, he added that ‘there is an underlying reality that things can change at short notice, as we saw last week. That is why we do not want to declare victory. We are not out of the woods.’

He added that Eskom was working on undertaking the required maintenance, finding suitable staff, conduct training, and secure funding. These were, however, not matters that lent themselves to a quick turnaround.

In addition, diesel was being consumed too rapidly to be replenished. Eskom had exceeded its emergency fund for diesel. In the coming year, it envisaged substantially increasing its budgets for the fuel.

Boiler leaks have compromised some power stations. A contract for an early detection system had expired more than a year ago. A tender process for a new system was underway.

Eskom was evaluating the plants currently under construction at Medupi and Kusile. These were described in February by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan as ‘badly designed and badly constructed’.

South Africa’s electricity system has faced an expanding set of problems since the 1990s. Failure to plan for its expansion, bad management, corruption and ballooning debt have created an ongoing headache for government. Despite repeated assurances to the country that the situation would be brought under control, electricity supply has gone from being one of the country’s most attractive economic offerings in the 1990s to one of its greatest constraints today.

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