The board at state-owned electricity utility Eskom has sanctioned a proposal to migrate the group’s unreliable coal fleet to a ‘philosophy maintenance’ model, whereby generation units are serviced in strict adherence with prescribed maintenance schedules in a bid to break the cycle of unplanned breakdowns.
However, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said Friday that the new model would increase the risk of load-shedding for the coming 18 months at least, but would also improve the longer-term performance of the fleet.
He said implementing load-shedding is not a decision that Eskom takes lightly, but that it’s unavoidable.
Eskom has, since September 2019, implemented 21 days of load-shedding. The utility is set to continue with stage 2 load-shedding over the weekend until 6am Monday morning.
On December 9, Eskom was forced to declare Stage 6, or 6 000 MW of simultaneous cuts, for the first time in its 96-year history.
De Ruyter, who was named Eskom’s new CEO late last year, told journalists that Eskom is facing unprecedented levels of power plant breakdowns and cannot afford to further defer scheduled maintenance.
He said the power utility will look at buying electricity from entities with excess supply to minimise the impact of reduced Eskom capacity.
It will also go back to the “traffic light system” on TVs that used to pop up in the past, asking households to turn off electricity items when supply is tight, to prevent higher stages of load-shedding.
“We apologise and we regret the inconvenience caused by load-shedding, but we have to fix Eskom. We have to do what needs to be done,” he said.