Eskom continues to punt increasing its energy availability factor (EAF) to 70% to end load-shedding but has already missed its first target by a country mile.
In its press briefing today, Eskom generation head Bheki Nxumalo said they are implementing a Generation Operational Recovery Programme to sustainably recover the performance of the plants.
As part of the programme, Eskom is guarding the performance of its flagship power stations – Medupi, Lethabo, Matimba, Kusile, Matla, and Kendal.
It also plans to embed principles of operational excellence, address the skills gap, prevent outage slips, and return Kusile units 1 to 3 by December 2023.
Through this programme, Eskom planned to reach a 60% EAF by March 2023 and improve it to 65% by March 2024 and 70% by March 2025.
“Several enablers are being implemented to ensure that the Generation Recovery Programme is successful,” Nxumalo said.
He added that they are placing experienced power station managers in problematic stations to improve their EAF.
While the programme and goals are commendable, it is not worth the paper it is written on without proper execution and skilled employees to improve power plant performance.
To date, there are no signs that Eskom’s Generation Operation Recovery Programme is improving the EAF.
At the start of April, Eskom’s generation availability statistics for 2023 revealed that the power utility’s EAF was 53.03%.
There were no signs of significant improvements, and Eskom was far away from its March 2023 target of 60%.
Energy experts Anton Eberhard and Chris Yelland have previously said these targets are misguided and unrealistic.
Eberhard, a professor at the University of Cape Town, said it is very hard to turn the EAF around without more spare generation capacity.
Energy analyst Chris Yelland explained that the energy availability factor is on a declining downward trend, which has been so for the past five years.
The EAF is based on the average performance of 90 generators in Eskom’s electricity generation fleet. “You cannot maintain or fix them simultaneously,” he said.
What this means, mathematically, is that the EAF is a continuum. There cannot be a discontinuity – also known as a step change – in the EAF trend.
“To increase Eskom’s EAF, there must first be a slowdown. It then has to bottom out, stabilise, and start to rise. This process will take several years,” he said.
“It is mathematically impossible for this to happen in the 2023/2024 or 2024/2025 financial years,” Yelland said.
Yelland said the EAF for the first fifteen weeks of the year is showing an alarming trend.
“It is 7% lower than the EAF for the same period last year. Things are significantly worse this year, and I don’t see an end to this,” he said.
Yelland said in his last days as Eskom COO at the end of April 2023, Jan Oberholzer said the targets were unrealistic, and Eskom would be lucky to achieve an EAF of 60% for FY 2023/24.
“The data suggests Eskom would, in fact, be lucky to achieve an EAF of 55% this year,” he added.
Eskom EAF in 2023
The chart below, courtesy of Yelland and EE Business Intelligence, shows Eskom’s EAF for the first 18 weeks of the 2023 calendar year in grey.