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Eskom faces further power generation problems

A night shot of
Eskom’s Duvha
power station
Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 11 February 2011 – South African national power utility Eskom Holdings is facing a serious electricity generation situation, with as much as 4 000MW, or 10%, of its 40 000MW capacity being unavailable late last week.

Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said that this was because of various problems that had arisen in the power grid. They included a 600MW generation unit at the Duvha power station, close to Witbank, that had been seriously damaged on Sunday night. Repairs to this unit would take months and seriously strained the utility’s ability to meet peak-time power demand.

Apart from these problems, Eskom needed to take a 900MW Koeberg power station unit out of service at the beginning of March for essential fuel reloading, which could take more than 40 days.

“The Duvha and Koeberg disruptions shortly ahead of winter will severely stress Eskom’s generation capacity,” said Joffe. “The situation is under control but is becoming increasingly difficult to manage,” she added. She also pointed out that 3 000MW was currently unavailable owing to planned maintenance.

The loss of the Duvha unit meant that from now on Eskom would be unable to do 600MW of its planned upkeep and maintenance work. The utility was currently doing less maintenance than it would ideally like to do, she said.

Joffe said many of the power stations were old and working harder than designed to do. They consequently required substantial upkeep but, with reserve margins under pressure, it was difficult to keep up with all the maintenance without further compromising security of supply.

Joffe went on to say that the problems that had arisen across the network last week – other than at the Duvha unit – would be resolved by the end of the week. The damage at Duvha was covered by insurance and an investigation was under way.

Eskom had previously warned that the electricity network would be under severe pressure both this year and next year. The first new power station would start to deliver power only at the end of 2012.