Following an urgent board meeting as Stage 5 load shedding was underway on Saturday, September 17, Eskom will on Monday begin sourcing additional power urgently from existing independent power producers.
This announcement was made during an emergency press briefing by the CEO of the Eskom group, André de Ruyter, on Sunday morning. It hopes to access around 1,000 MW from existing independent power producers like Sasol and Sappi and hopes to bring it online within a week or two.
Read: Eskom on the brink as outages hit record highs again
The struggling utility was forced to step up load shedding to Stage 6 at around 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning after two more coal-fired generators tripped.
This means that South Africans find themselves without electricity for about a third of the day.
Eskom’s chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer, said that while staff are working hard to get the units back into service, they need to replenish their emergency reserves and high levels of load shedding are expected during the most of the coming week.
At the time of the press conference, Eskom had a generation capacity of 7,062 MW in planned maintenance shutdown and 15,630 MW was unavailable due to outages. The forecast evening peak demand was 26,399 MW, leaving a deficit of 5,282 MW.
While Eskom hoped the dam levels at its emergency pump storage units would be replenished by Monday morning, diesel levels at its Ankerlig Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) were only at 32%. Due to the logistics of transporting diesel by road, this should only recover later in the coming week. The fuel level at the other OCGT Gourikwa plant was at 85%.
Oberholzer explained that the depletion of the 6,000 MW of emergency reserves could lead to a blackout if they were not available when the system needed them.
Eskom revealed earlier that it has already exhausted the entire diesel budget for the year until the end of March 2023. According to Oberholzer, CFO Calib Cassim has made an additional R550 million available despite liquidity issues from Eskom.
De Ruyter gave assurances that there is no indication that the current generation shortage is due to sabotage.
The CEO added that Eskom has asked municipalities to identify non-essential loads that can be switched off and will engage organized companies for further energy savings, such as limiting the period of lighting, heating and air conditioning.
He called on households to use electricity sparingly and switch off non-essential appliances, especially during morning and evening peaks.
Isabel Fick, chief executive of the system operator’s office, said if load shedding escalates beyond the 8 steps set out in the national standard, the system operator will ask all provinces to remove any additional load. .
De Ruyter said the load shedding is done to avoid such a situation and a national blackout.
Oberholzer described how several units had failed in the previous two weeks – more than 40 per week – to bring the utility to the current crisis. He said coal-fired power plants were operating at a utilization rate of over 90% compared to the international benchmark of 65%. Units are returned to service, but some fail again.
Ten generator sets with a total capacity of 6,000 MW are currently operating with known faults, of which 2,000 MW are at high risk of failure.
Eskom hopes to bring 18 units representing 9,000 MW back into service within the next five to six days, Oberholzer said. “Everyone is on deck to achieve this.”