Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the slow procurement through middlemen of specific components reduces Eskom’s output by 2,800MW on average.
Ramokgopa identified this issue during an interview on eNCA, where the minister gave an update on implementing the Energy Action Plan (EAP).
Among the measures he outlined to increase the reliability of Eskom’s fleet, Ramokgopa paid specific attention to the “procurement of strategic components”.
When a unit trips, Eskom engineers identify the components that need to be replaced and then give an estimated time of return to service.
Ramokgopa said that in most cases, the units take longer to return than is initially estimated because of the slow procurement of replacement components.
He refers to this as “outage slips”, making it incredibly difficult to manage the supply-demand balance as the return of units to service is unpredictable.
On average, these outage slips reduce Eskom’s output by 2,800MW, equivalent to three stages of load-shedding.
To resolve this, Ramokgopa has called for procurement processes to be accelerated by removing middlemen in the transactions.
The minister wants Eskom to source the components directly from suppliers and store them on-site, in central warehouses, or the utility’s workshops.
The removal of middlemen will improve the reliability of Eskom’s fleet and increase the Energy Availability Factor (EAF), as it will enable units to be returned to service more quickly.
This is part of a set of measures the minister will implement to “transition South Africa out of the darkness”.
Other measures include using retired or private-sector engineers with specific skill sets that Eskom can utilise.
Eskom has people problems
Ramokgopa has previously said that Eskom has people issues. However, he has also denied that corruption is a problem at the utility.
He has largely denied or downplayed the role corruption has played in the country’s energy crisis, ascribing many of the problems at power stations to “technical problems”.
Ramokgopa clarified that the supply-demand imbalance is not the only problem at Eskom – “there are people issues there at Eskom”.
However, these issues have nothing to do with the leadership of Eskom, according to Ramokgopa, but are due to a lack of job security.
With Eskom’s ageing coal-powered fleet slowly being decommissioned, people are losing their jobs, and more jobs will be lost.
Eskom closed the dilapidated Komati plant last year and will close another 5 of its 14 remaining coal-fired plants by 2030.
Thus, people are not incentivised to apply themselves at Eskom, Ramokgopa lamented. “The people needed to run these plants do not see their future at Eskom.”