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[LISTEN] Eskom Unable to Afford Repair of Power Stations, yet Already R400 Billion in Debt

Staff Writer

Eskom is unable to operate 16 of its 99 coalfired power stations, according to City Press. These would provide around 2500 MW of power, more than the 2000 MW emergency power procurement it is seeking, and if operational, would have allowed for the lessoning of loadshedding by 1 to 2 stages. Many of these stations have been mothballed, as the power utility, which is already over R400 billion in debt, is currently unable to afford their repair cost.

Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa briefed the ANC on the crippling loadshedding, which according to Business Unity South Africa has impacted the profitability of 60% of businesses, stating that it was keeping him awake at night, and reaffirming the need to speed up the separation of the company.

It has also been reported that worse than the breakdowns and loadshedding, Eskom’s current management is suffering from lack of confidence, as their inhibitory measures continually fail. However senior management has refused to willingly resign, even though the problem of loadshedding is at an all-time high.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Andrew Kenny, an engineer with an interest in energy, argued that the issue of load shedding is likely to last for the next 5 to 10 years, and that the utility needs to budget for maintenance despite its excuses; if the finances don’t exist, it has to be found. He said, “Well, the answer is it’s going to go on for at least five years, maybe 10 years, we just heard a long list of woes .. even more breakdowns and failures, so many of the stations down.. explosion here,  transformer on fire here. This thing doesn’t work, very low availability all over the place.”

Kenny further criticised the use of the utility’s diesel fired turbines, which are expensive, and only should be used in emergency situations, but which are being spun continuously, leading even to a shortage of diesel delivery.

Kenny did, however, express optimism about avoiding a total blackout, explaining that power stations need to maintain a certain voltage and frequency, failing which they shut down as a means of self-preservation. He argued that South Africa’s controllers are very good, implementing load shedding so as to ensure that all power stations don’t self-shut down, “so I’d say the danger of South African energy grid collapse is very low, essentially zero it’s actually one thing we don’t have to worry about.”

Eskom is to implement stage 3 loadshedding until Saturday, following which load shedding will be temporarily suspended.

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