15 October 2012 – Eskom reports that demand for electricity for 2012 to date has been more than 2% lower than in the same period last year, reflecting weaker than expected economic growth, and commodity market conditions as well as demand side management initiatives. Industrial unrest in sectors such as mining over the past month has further reduced demand.

“As Eskom we would prefer to see thriving economic activity reflected in growth in electricity demand, and the new power stations we are building will support faster rates of growth and development for South Africa,” Eskom chief executive Brian Dames, says.

At its third quarterly state of the system media briefing of 2012, in South Africa, Eskom reported that it had kept the lights on throughout winter, as it has done nationally since April 2008. However, the power system remains tight, and summer is always a challenge as it strives to keep a balance between keeping the lights on and performing the regular summer maintenance.

“The performance of our power stations has been volatile going into summer. Most of our power stations are middle-aged and they will need sustained high levels of maintenance if they are to perform reliably,” Dames, says.

Eskom’s target is to eliminate the backlog of maintenance on its power stations by the end of 2013. Progress has been made, with the backlog reduced from 36 units in May 2011 to 20 units at present. “We are working to improve our ability to perform maintenance on time and at required levels of quality, and this has improved in the past quarter,” Dames says.

Eskom has put supply and demand initiatives in place over the past two years to enable it to manage a power system which is expected to be tight for at least the next two years. Some of Eskom’s large industrial and mining customers have provided assistance through the demand response programme for up to two hours over peak periods, at times when the power system has been very constrained. On the supply side, more than 1,000 MW has been signed up from independent power producers, including municipal generators.

Eskom is accelerating a mass rollout of technologies for residential customers to become more energy efficient. Overall, there has been a significant uptake of new energy efficiency incentive programmes by the commercial and residential sectors.

Eskom is closely monitoring industrial action in the road transport industry. Up to 30% of the coal for Eskom’s power stations is delivered by truck, and the transport workers strike has had an impact on deliveries. Contingency plans have been put in place, but the level of coal stock days has fallen to an average of 43.2 days. This is still well within the target range, but coal stockpiles need to increase going into the holiday period and the festive season.  

Eskom’s Medupi power station project is on track to deliver first power to the grid by the end of 2013. The Medupi site is back to normal after protest action by a small group of workers during September 2012.