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Featured image: Eskom

On Thursday, Eskom announced that it is committed to keeping the lights on this winter despite low coal stockpiles at six of its power stations.

“We have implemented plans to manage a shift in plant performance and coal stock levels making load shedding unlikely this winter.

“The resilience of the power system was evidenced in March this year following a number of plant breakdowns and a number of units on scheduled maintenance. We expect several units to be back on line before the end of this month and will further strengthen the power grid ahead of the winter season,” the utility explained in a statement.

Coal recovery plan

Coal stockpiles across all coal-fired power stations are at an average of 35 days, excluding the plants under construction Medupi and Kusile, the parastatal explained.

Adding that plans are in place to improve coal stockpile levels at the six power stations that are currently below minimum stock level requirements. Read more: Coal recovery plan targets imbalance in coal stock levels

The coal recovery plan includes securing additional coal supplies and a redirection of coal stock from other power stations’ coal yards to address the imbalance at the six power stations.

Eskom is also concluding an interim coal supply agreement with the Tegeta Business Rescue Practitioners to enable coal supply to Hendrina Power Station whilst the business rescue process is in progress. In addition, Eskom is currently negotiating tenders for 100-million tonnes of coal that is required for the next five years.

“The challenge of coal stock levels below the required target at some of our power stations is not ideal, more especially as the organisation prepares for the traditionally higher energy usage period in winter. We have however put measures in place to mitigate the situation and if the current state does not improve, we will meticulously reassess the situation, review our plans and take the necessary action,” interim group chief executive Phakamani Hadebe said.

Utility performance

Eskom has maintained operational performance for the year ending March 2018 with the energy availability factor having improved to 78% from 77.3% for the previous financial year.

Generation plant performance showed a decline from September 2017 with unplanned outages for the year ending March 2018 at 10.2% up from 9.9% for the same period last year.  Planned maintenance was at 10.4% for the year ending March 2018, meeting the target of 10%. Other losses were at 1.5%.

“We move into winter confident that our plant, notwithstanding anomalies, will be able to meet demand. We have set a target to improve plant performance and are on course to achieve a sustainably healthy electricity system by balancing maintenance and reducing unplanned breakages, plant availability of 80% with 10% of units on planned maintenance and 10% on unplanned and other maintenance by FY2018/19,” Hadebe said.

During the 2017/18 financial year 2 387MW of new generation capacity was added to the national electricity grid, exceeding the year-end target of 1 460MW. In addition, 722.3km of new transmission lines were added, exceeding the year-end target of 677km and 2510MVA of new substation transformer capacity exceeded the year-end target of 2010MVA.

The build programme is expected to delivery 6,382MW of additional generation capacity over the next 5 years.

“Continuing to fast-track delivery of the build programme, remains a critical enabler for Eskom to support the network sufficiently and to ensure that South Africa has optimal base load capacity and transmission infrastructure to grow the South African economy,” Hadebe said.

Click here for the presentation shared during the State of the System Briefing