Thu. Jun 20th, 2019

Revealed: Here’s how Eskom plan to get rid of load shedding this winter

Eskom load sheddingIs this mission impossible, or can the problems at Eskom be fixed during the winter? Here’s how the power giants plan to banish load shedding for good.

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Pravin Gordhan has sniffed an opportunity to get Eskom back on the right track. At a media briefing on Wednesday, he cut a different figure from the man who spoke to the press just a few weeks ago on the issue of load shedding.

He was upbeat, almost radiating with confidence this time around. After the Eskom task team was established six weeks ago – where Gordhan was given free rein to grab a few officials by their collars and demand explanations – it seems the utility may now have something to shout about.

Load shedding forecast for winter 2019

The public enterprises minister revealed that load shedding isn’t likely to happen between May and August. In a worst-case scenario, Stage 1 would be implemented for about a third of that time. The information is much easier to digest than what we heard last month: Eskom was reportedly preparing for Stage 5 and 6 blackouts.

But just what has changed, and how do the utility plan to keep the lights on this winter? All of that has been laid bare in the Eskom presentation, which explained how they would try to take load shedding off the table.

Their ideal target has been described as “Scenario 1” – this would be the outcome that Gordhan believes will happen if everyone in a management position at Eskom gives 110%: So a pinch of salt may be required here. The scenario would mean no more than 9 500MW would be removed from the grid over a three-month period.

How Eskom plan to freeze load shedding this winter

For a start, the units at Kriel, Matla, Medupi and Kusile would all benefit from an increase in capacity, meaning that a further 2 350MW will be added to South Africa’s electricity grid.

The change in weather is also set to help, as imports from Mozambique have resumed following Cyclone Idai. Furthermore, power plants tend to perform better in cooler temperatures during the onset of winter.

Eskom also plans to encourage citizens to save more electricity in order to help relieve the pressure on Eskom’s plants. As we’ve seen with Cape Town’s water restrictions, the utility wants to encourage eco-friendly behaviours with the power supply.

More “targeted investments” and an increase in planned maintenance have also been scheduled:

What the Eskom task team want to improve

That fabled technical task team have also come to the party, almost immediately once they’d been invited. After investigating what could be done to resurrect Eskom during one of their lowest ebbs, the group have returned with a myriad of objectives that need to be undertaken:

  • Implement stronger leadership in key positions.
  • Give power station managers full authority over their plants.
  • Fill all critical positions.
  • Improve “root cause analysis” capabilities for technical issues and execute swiftly.
  • Strongly focus on all ways to optimise each plant.
  • Review recommended boiler oxygen levels without compromising safety.
  • Track partial load losses with daily targets based on each station’s capabilities.
  • Introduce a project to focus on reducing the backlog of coal and diesel procurement.
  • Implement a plant care strategy.
  • Update maintenance strategies for milling and fabric filter plants.
  • Establish appropriate maintenance contracts for each plant.
  • Improve optimisation of all boilers and turbines.

A step forward for Eskom on a long journey

Signs of a promised “new dawn” from the ANC have been few and far between since the slogan was first used at Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration in February 2018. However, Pravin Gordhan is arguably the right man for such a mammoth task. He has his detractors, but he’s also got his set of principles – which he’s looking to instil at Eskom:

“We must demonstrate that we have a winter plan. Essentially the month of May is used to plan what needs to happen between June and the end of August which is the key winter period. An important culture change needs to happen in Eskom where increased levels of accountability and consequence management will be key.”

Pravin Gordhan

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