South African Energy Forum executive director Hlathi Zak Madela said Eskom must stop hiding behind the excuse of “maintenance” when it implements load-shedding.
“The fundamental question that we need to ask ourselves is, ‘Are we all going to hide behind the maintenance as if maintenance is something that is unsolvable?’” Madela told eNCA.
Madela’s comments came after Eskom recently announced that the country would return to stage 6 load-shedding, which has since been dropped to stage 5.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the increased load-shedding was due to maintenance and unplanned breakdowns.
Eric Shunmagum, Eskom’s senior manager in the group executive generation office, told SABC that Eskom’s problems started on Saturday, 2 September, when seven generation units tripped, of which only four units could be recovered timeously.
“That trend continued into Sunday when we had to make some tough decisions. By Monday, we still have not recovered all the units,” he said.
On Monday, Eskom had planned maintenance of 5,700 MW, significantly higher than the 3,000 MW planned maintenance target during winter.
Unplanned breakdown maintenance hit 17,200 MW, which was also much higher than the winter target of 15,000 MW.
The higher planned and unplanned maintenance left Eskom with an additional 5,000 MW of lost generation capacity.
The increased maintenance resulted in Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) dropping to 52% in September. This is much lower than the same period last year.
However, Madela said South Africans must question why it is so difficult for Eskom to deal decisively with maintenance issues.
He also said the country should question why the utility is reporting a high number of unplanned capacity loss factors when they should be far lower.
“Let’s push Eskom and the government to account for why it is so difficult for them to sort out the maintenance,” he said.
Madela speculated that the real reason behind load-shedding is “not a technical problem but a political correctness problem”.
He claimed that Eskom does not have the money to solve problems at the utility, which is why the country is now experiencing higher stages of load-shedding.
Earlier this year, Daily Investor analysed Eskom’s claims that frequent breakdowns at the utility were due to the utility’s ageing fleet, which requires a lot of maintenance.
The analysis focused on Eskom’s latest EAF and showed that there is no strong correlation between the age and performance of power stations.
In fact, some of Eskom’s oldest power stations have some of the best EAFs, while its newest power stations have some of the worst.
This suggests that mismanagement, corruption, and poor maintenance are more to blame for Eskom’s problems than the age of the power stations.
In addition, when comparing the performance of Eskom’s Tutuka and Duvha power stations with two US-based coal power stations of similar age, the US stations have a much higher EAF.
This suggests that ageing infrastructure can still be reliable with regular maintenance and the latest technology.