Coal stockpiles
at Richards Bay
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 26 January 2011 – South African power utility Eskom Holdings Limited is managing its problems with wet coal for the moment, but the general power supply remains tight, according to a senior official.

In the early part of January, heavy rains hit the production and quality of coal supplied to power Eskom’s plants, affecting the utility’s ability to power Africa’s biggest economy. Chief commercial officer Dan Marokane said Eskom had put measures in place to buy better-quality coal and to protect its stock from upcoming rainfalls.

While showers have eased recently, more heavy rains are expected in the coming weeks which would test the provisions taken by the utility, he added. “The system is still tight and all manners of energy savings must still be pursued,” Marokane told journalists.

State-owned Eskom “’ which supplies the majority of South Africa’s electricity, most of which is based on coal “’ has been struggling to meet fast-rising demand and has warned that supply would remain tight until 2015, and especially over the next two years, until its two new power plants come on stream.

South Africa’s national grid nearly collapsed in early 2008, partially due to coal shortages and rain, forcing mines and smelters to shut for days and costing South Africa billions of dollars in lost output.

Many of Eskom’s power plants are currently undergoing maintenance which could further strain supply, although Marokane said that Eskom’s sole nuclear plant, which was partially shut last month for repairs, was again operating at full capacity.