Eskom
Ted Blom
Energy analyst Ted Blom forecasts a 50% chance of a total grid blackout

On Wednesday, South Africans gathered to listen to the last day of NERSA’s public hearing proceedings on Eskom’s selective reopener application, requesting a 25% tariff increase.

Presenting to the NERSA panel, energy analyst Ted Blom forecasts a 50% total grid collapse which will take anything between a week and two weeks to recover—excluding the “mayhem” that will occur in the meantime.

Grid status

Blom gave a rundown of his reasoning where he estimated that the current overnight demand is around 22GW. The peak winter demand according to Eskom is around 35.5GW.

“These are the numbers that only came out in the last week from the ‘war room’ … that the serviced, or what you and I know as roadworthy generator sets are roughly 40% of the fleet. Fair condition, 12% of the fleet. Poor condition, 21% of the fleet, critical condition, 26% of the fleet.”

Blom said that if you add up the fair and serviced gensets, you would get around 20GW.

He said: “So you have 20GW […] the balance is poor and critical.”

“The normal safety margin around the world is 15%, that is roughly 6.5 GW.

“Eskom’s new winter strategy, they told us proudly last week, will only have a 1,000MW safety margin, and it is roughly 2.5% of what is considered an appropriate safety margin.

“So according to that, and I am willing to challenge anybody… I am forecasting that there is a better than 50% probability of a total grid collapse.”

Maintenance

In an earlier statement Eskom said that more than 64% of the power utility’s power stations are in their mid-life and require more preventative maintenance in order to improve their performance and ensure their safety.

However, Eskom admits that over the past few years a backlog of maintenance has developed, and the power company has identified it as a priority to reduce the backlog as well as keep up with the planned maintenance schedule.

Blom described the maintenance shortfall as “gross criminal neglect of maintenance since 2010”.

He expressively posed the question;  what happened to the ZAR70billion ($6 billion) that was allocated to this maintenance period that was not spent? Where is that money? You are asking for a price increase because you are short of cash, but where is the ZAR70 billion ($6 billion) that wasn’t spent on maintenance?

Blom estimates that it will take five years to catch up and not the promised 18-months.

Coal

The energy analyst estimates that the final cost of Medupi will amount to ZAR300 billion ($25 billion).

Eskom coal supplies are charged at double the rate than other suppliers, Blom stated. A proper enquiry needs to be done.

In his concluding statement, Blom said that should NERSA promulgate the changes in the regulation, to allow household solar to feed into the grid,  between 8GW and 10GW of power could be generated within 12 months.

Energy security

The Ingula pumped-storage scheme
Units 3 and 4 of the Ingula pumped storage facility is expected to come online in Q1 2016. Pic credit: Eskom

To ensure that future energy demand is met, Eskom is currently undertaking a ZAR280 billion ($23 billion) capital expenditure programme over a 5-year period, and building two of Africa’s largest coal-fired power plants, namely Medupi and Kusile.

In a June statement, Eskom claimed that since 2001, the power utility has added 32 generating units increasing the number of current units to 121.

The power utility plans to bring online units 3 and 4 of the Ingula pumped storage facility (situated on the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces) between January and March 2016 respectively. In total, over 1,500MW new generating capacity will be added to the national grid by the end of this current financial year.

In the next 5 years, Eskom will add over 17,000MW of new generation capacity to the national grid as well as 9,756km of new transmission lines and 42,470MVA of transmission strengthening. The power utility said that to date over 6,238MW of new capacity has already been added and 5,814km of transmission lines and 29,655MVA have been installed.

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