Stage 13 load-shedding warning in South Africa

South Africans could experience stage 13 load-shedding if Eskom does not urgently repair and upgrade its water treatment plants at some of its largest power stations. The failure of these plants would result in over 13,000 MW of capacity going offline. 

This is feedback from the German consultancy group VGBE Energy, which the National Treasury commissioned to analyse the performance of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants and recommend how they can be improved. 

The German engineers with extensive experience in running coal-fired power plants spent four and a half months studying South Africa’s ailing power utility. 

They went through Eskom’s coal fleet, plant by plant, to determine what changes the utility should make to improve the performance of the individual stations. 

The experts were particularly concerned about the poor state of many of Eskom’s water treatment plants at some of its largest power stations. 

For example, the Medupi and Matimba power stations share the raw water treatment plant, which is filling into disrepair and cannot supply both stations at full capacity. 

The engineers said this plant urgently requires, at the very least, maintenance and upgrading. If the existing plant fails, 12 units with 9,800 MW of capacity would go offline. 

Moreover, the current water supply is insufficient to install the wet flue gas desulfurisation plant that needs to be built for the Medupi and Matimba sites by 2025.

The water treatment plant at Kendal is also in poor condition and needs urgent maintenance and refurbishment. If that plant fails, six units – 3,840 MW of capacity– would be offline. 

This means that if these ailing water treatment plants fail, 13,640 MW of generation would go offline – resulting in a record high stage 13 load-shedding in South Africa. 

There was also bad news regarding Eskom’s perceived saviour, Kusile Power Station, which is slowly coming online. 

Kusile could soon become an important contributor to generation capacity, with Unit 5 coming online and Units 1 to 3 starting once construction of the temporary chimney has been completed. 

However, its generation capacity will be capped due to an incomplete coal handling system, restrictions in its water supply and a deteriorating ash discharge situation.  

These restrictions make it very likely that Kusile cannot be operated with more than three units at any one time – thus, only 2,400 MW instead of 4,800 MW would be available.


Top JSE indices