Truth about Eskom maintenance

Statements from the Electricity Minister, President, and Deputy President created a false impression that load-shedding increased because of higher-than-usual maintenance.

Last week, President Ramaphosa said South Africans should see the current stage 6 load-shedding in a positive light as it is “short-term pain for longer-term gain”.

“The load-shedding that we are going through now is occasioned by what Eskom is having to do to reposition the generation of our fleet,” Ramaphosa said.

“They are maintaining our fleet. They are making sure that incidents of load-shedding that have been given rise to in the past because of unplanned load-shedding events like breakdowns are put behind us.”

He added that the more intense load-shedding will not last. “This, as much as it is stage 6, is of a short-term nature,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the minister of electricity has briefed him thoroughly about the processes that Eskom is going through. “There is short-term pain for longer-term gain,” he said.

The President further urged South Africans to see the current process and the subsequent stage 6 load-shedding in a positive light.

“We are obviously worried when there is load-shedding, but as we go through this process now, we must see it in a positive light because, in the long term, these are things we have to do to say goodbye to load-shedding,” he said.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile told the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association that intensive maintenance was being done at power stations to relieve the ongoing power cuts on a long-term basis.

“We are allowing Minister Ramokgopa to do a lot of maintenance. So, if you see a bit of a spike at the moment, they are doing intensive maintenance. They have taken a lot of them for maintenance. When they return online, you will see reduced load shedding.”

Earlier this month, Ramokgopa said the country was plunged into higher load-shedding stages because Eskom was not “sticking to its planned maintenance schedule”.

Ramokgopa said South Africans should expect intensified power cuts to persist in the short term.

“We are going to stick to planned and philosophy maintenance. We do accept that in the short-term, it’s going to result in the possibility of intensified load shedding,” said Ramokgopa.

However, an analysis of Eskom’s capacity loss due to planned maintenance revealed that these statements are misleading.

The data indicates that Eskom is actually doing slightly less maintenance than it was doing at the same time last year. 

In August 2022, for example, Eskom’s capacity loss due to planned maintenance was 9.2%. In August 2023, it was 9.1%. 

Eskom’s capacity loss factor due to planned maintenance for the past 12 months can be seen in the graph below. 

In response to questions from Daily Investor, the Ministry of Electricity said that minimal maintenance was done at Eskom’s coal-fired power stations for the past few years. 

The Ministry said Eskom intended to shut down most of its coal stations, so it did not spend enough time and resources on relevant repairs, maintenance, upgrades, and replacements. 

Stations such as Hendrina, Grootvlei, Tutuka, Kenal, Matla, and Duvha, among others, were meant to be shut down. 

The Ministry said South Africans must understand that no one would have maintained what they intended to shut down.

Eskom planned to shut down coal plants without introducing sufficient alternative energy generation. This is what caused load shedding, said the Ministry. 

Since being appointed Electricity Minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa decided to delay the shutdown of Eskom’s coal power stations and fast-track the introduction of renewables.  

This means many stations must undergo intensive maintenance to improve their performance, resulting in elevated levels of load-shedding, the Ministry said. 


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