Eskom’s generation recovery plan may need to be revisited as the utility struggles to meet even low electricity demand after performing maintenance over the holiday period.
This is the view of National Rationalised Specifications Association of South Africa chairman Vally Padayachee, who said South Africa will likely have load-shedding for the next two to three years.
Padayachee told SABC News that he was surprised when Eskom announced load-shedding at the start of the year following 18 consecutive days of uninterrupted power in December.
Eskom managed the higher electricity demand in Winter – around 32 GW – very well in 2023. The country’s average demand is 26 GW.
However, in the first week of January, many energy-intensive sectors and businesses have not yet opened, and demand is at a low of 23 GW – yet Eskom has implemented load-shedding at stages 2 and 3.
“I am beginning to question now – and I say this in the most respectful terms – whether Eskom’s recovery plan is working and needs to be revisited?” Padayachee said.
To take advantage of the lower demand during the festive season, Eskom implemented planned maintenance of around 8,000 MW.
The utility attributed the load-shedding to its intensified maintenance combined with a setback of three generating units not coming back online as anticipated.
In addition, it suffered a loss of six generating units and projected an increase in electricity demand.
Padayachee said Eskom’s intensified maintenance is “noble”, but “from experience, when you do a proper planned maintenance, you need at least six months”.
He explained that units cannot undergo thorough maintenance in just six weeks.
“By doing that, you are probably putting more risk onto the units because they could be improperly maintained.”
He said Eskom is stuck between a rock and a hard place, as the utility wants to maintain its coal-fired units, but these units need a proper maintenance overhaul.
If these units were to undergo the proper maintenance they need, they would have to be taken offline for six months, which would intensify load-shedding.
However, the alternative is continuing to perform lower-level maintenance, which is inadequate to maintain the units in the long run.