Load-shedding risk will be high over festive season: Eskom

Eskom expects to spend as much as R1bn more on diesel generators, which it plans to run as needed over the next four months as it moves to pull the power system back from the brink.

Eskom, already spending more on servicing its debt than it earns, has budgeted to spend up to R1bn more on diesel to keep the lights on in the next four months.
Image: 123rf.com/Prapan Ngawkeaw

The growing operational costs are particularly bad news for the utility, which is already in a debt trap as it spends more on debt servicing than it generates in revenues. It has applied to the National Energy Regulator of SA for an electricity tariff hike of 15% a year for the next three years.

Briefing media on the state of the system on Friday morning, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said that between R750m and R1bn had been budgeted to run open-cycle gas turbines on diesel.

The utility has spent R200m on diesel usage in the year to date, and said this week that, although expensive, diesel generators were cheaper than load-shedding’s cost to the economy.

Ten out of 15 coal-fired power stations are also experiencing supply shortages and stockpiles now face the added risk of getting wet in summer rains.

The diesel usage is part of a nine-point plan Eskom is putting in place to fix pressing problems.

The diesel power will provide support to the system so that planned maintenance of power stations can be carried out into March 2019, Hadebe said.

“Maintenance is not where it was supposed to be and we are paying the price for that and trying to resuscitate it.”

The budget, however, does not account for any additional generators for unplanned outages. It also does not mean that the risk of load-shedding has disappeared. Willy Majola, acting group executive for transmission, said the risk remained high over the festive season.

Hadebe said Eskom’s story was not an “exciting one”, but a story that had to be known as major challenges still remained.

“Before we turn around this huge institution, it’s going to be a tough journey.”

BY LISA STEYN – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital

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