Eskom crisis still lingers

Eskom is not out of the woods yet, as the utility still has at least a year of hard work before it can comfortably say that load-shedding is a thing of the past. 

This is feedback from Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati, who told Newzroom Afrika that despite South Africa experiencing over 50 days of no load-shedding, Eskom’s work is not done. 

“The crisis still lingers. We had a fleet that was highly unreliable and that cannot be fixed overnight. For us to be safely out of the woods, we need to touch all of those units and do proper maintenance,” Nyati said. 

“The Generation Recovery Plan, which has been implemented over the past year, still has another year to go.”

“Only then can we comfortably say that load-shedding is behind us. We still have another year of hard work to make sure that we are safely out of this challenge.” 

Nyati explained that unplanned outages, a measure of Eskom’s units’ reliability, have declined from around 18,000 MW at this time last year to 11,000 MW in May. 

The utility is planning to push this below 10,000 MW, which will be difficult as it will experience diminishing returns on its efforts. Eskom has largely grasped the low-hanging fruit available to it, making any improvements harder to come by in the future. 

Nyati explained that after Eskom’s new board was appointed, it was discovered that around 70% of unit failures occurred at six power stations, which made it clear where it needed to focus its efforts. 

The utility conducted intensive maintenance at these power stations, with Nyati claiming it has done more maintenance in the last year than the three previous years combined. 

However, Eskom’s improved performance is not only due to more maintenance – the repairs have also been of a higher quality, making the units more reliable once they return to service. 

Nyati said the utility’s maintenance under new Generation Executive Bheki Nxumalo has been done in collaboration with original equipment manufacturers rather than middlemen. 

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati

Eskom’s chairman has spent the past few weeks trying to convince South Africans that the utility is not engaged in political games to help the ruling party stay in power after the national elections later this month. 

He has emphasised that Eskom’s improved performance is sustainable and due to the efforts of its management team and employees. 

“This is a painful thing we are experiencing as a board, with it being claimed that we are driving things for a certain political party when we, as individuals, are highly skilled and competent,” he said. 

Nyati explained that the country’s respite from load-shedding can be attributed to the skills of Eskom’s board and the hard work of its management team and employees. 

He said the lack of load-shedding has resulted from its maintenance strategy, where it took specific generation units offline to fix. This strategy, he said, is starting to produce results.

“We are not playing any political games. That is not who we are, and we are never going to start playing those games in the future,” he said. 

“Our focus is to help sort out the challenged facing our country. There is absolutely no connection between the two things.”


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