Eskom not playing political games

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Eskom not playing political games

Eskom is not playing any political games by suspending load-shedding in the build-up to South Africa’s national elections at the end of May. 

This is feedback from the utility’s chairman, Mteto Nyati, who told 702 that it is frustrating for the company and board to be questioned regarding its intentions in ending load-shedding. 

Eskom has managed to avoid plunging the country into rolling blackouts for over a month now, thanks to a decline in demand for its electricity and the performance of its plants stabilising. 

The recovery coincides with political parties ramping up their campaigns before the 29 May vote, in which the ruling ANC risks losing its parliamentary majority for the first time in three decades.

Almost two-thirds of people in a BrandMapp-Silverstone survey last year said they’d consider not voting for the ANC because of power cuts.

Thus, many South Africans remain sceptical about the intentions behind the absence of load-shedding and whether it is sustainable or if Eskom is running its plants hard and burning diesel to keep the lights on ahead of the elections. 

Many assume this would be to help the ANC remain in power post-election. But Nyati flatly dismissed these sceptics. 

“This is a painful thing we are experiencing as a board, with it being claimed that we are driving things for a certain political party when we, as individuals, are highly skilled and competent,” he said. 

Nyati explained that the country’s respite from load-shedding can be attributed to the skills of Eskom’s board and the hard work its management team and employees have put in. 

He said the lack of load-shedding has resulted from its maintenance strategy, where it took specific generation units offline to fix. This strategy, he said, is starting to produce results.

“We are not playing any political games. That is not who we are, and we are never going to start playing those games in the future,” he said. 

“Our focus is to help sort out the challenged facing our country. There is absolutely no connection between the two things.”

He further said that the South Africans will soon see if the elections are the reason for the end of load-shedding, with Eskom’s good performance likely to continue after 29 May. 

“If everything continues to go well, people will just come up with another conspiracy theory.”

Nyati’s claims seem to be supported by the data, with energy analyst Chris Yelland saying unplanned breakdowns are, indeed, consistently lower in the first 16 weeks of 2024 compared to the same period last year.

However, it is mainly due to the return to service of 3 x 800 MW units at the Kusile Power Station, which provided 2,100 MW to the grid.

“Unplanned breakdowns remain pretty steady and high this year, at about 30% of Eskom’s generation capacity in commercial service,” he said.

Eskom achieved a higher average energy availability factor (EAF) in the first four months of 2024 than the same time last year, allowing it to reduce load-shedding.

Yelland said the higher EAF trend this year is mainly attributable to the corresponding reduction in planned maintenance outages (PCLF).

The increased EAF and lower load-shedding at the start of the year was, therefore, because Eskom did less maintenance and not lower levels of unplanned breakdowns (UCLF).

Eskom System Operator head Isabel Fick added that increased photovoltaic solar power helped Eskom cut load-shedding in April.

2,800 MW of photovoltaic solar is directly connected to the Eskom grid, with other “behind-the-meter” solar installations of around 5,440 MW.

Fick said the contributions of these solar power plants and rooftop solar installations allowed Eskom to replenish its pumped storage capacity during the day rather than at night.

Eskom can then use its emergency generation capacity – pumped storage and diesel-powered open-cycle gas turbines – over the evening peak when solar energy is unavailable.


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