Bad news came for South Africans this week as Eskom confirmed that load-shedding will be around for some time to come.
A number of power stations will have to be retired soon due to a lack of maintenance of these structures, said Eskom COO, Jan Oberholzer. Eskom has issued timelines which showed that by next year, limited loadshedding is possible.
Oberholzer along with Eskom's CEO, Andre de Ruyter were discussing the state of the system.
Eskom has asked South Africans to be patient as they say they are trying to work with the issues they face. They are said to be focusing on maintenance despite challenges faced, like theft and vandalism. De Ruyter said that the power utility company losing about R2.5 billion a year due to illegal activities which affect the grid.
The CEO said, "This is not a loss that we can accommodate and we have therefore implemented load reduction during peak hour where illegal connection cause grids to be overloaded, creating a risk of fires and even explosions to our distribution transformers. In order to protect assets, this is a step we have had to take. It is regrettable".
"We're doing a lot of maintenance so I believe we will see the first step change end of April next year ... it will improve up until the end of the winter period in 2021. However, up until then, the risk of loadshedding remains," said Oberholzer.
Loadshedding occurs when units are put offline so that they can be refurbished and fixed. This is why we experience loadshedding this year and will continue to have loadshedding.
Maintenance of units at Eskom has improved and it will become more reliable once the system allows them to do more maintenance. Eskom expects to have performed adequate reliability maintenance on its aged power plants to significantly improve reliability by September 2021.
Eskom has said that their objective is to avoid loadshedding and that they aim to improve the reliability of the system so that unplanned outages can be avoided.
Due to how much coal contributes towards pollution, Eskom is now working to use more environmentally friendly resources.
"In order to accommodate the expected construction of very substantial new wind and solar capacity in South Africa, we are going to have to spend an excess of R100 billion to strengthen and expand out transmission grid in South Africa over the next ten years," said de Ruyter.
He then continues to explain that this is an opportunity for the country because it allows Eskom to add capacity and to participate in Government's infrastructure development programme and this in turn create more jobs for citizens which right now, the economy desperately needs.
"“Our ultimate goal is to achieve operational sustainability and thereby reduce the risk of loadshedding. We believe that by discipline and a collaborative approach, relentless focus, I’m encouraged to make tough decisions that will aid Eskom to reliably provide electricity to power the growing economy."
De Ruyter emphasised that the more capacity that the power utility can add to the grid in a short space of time, the lower the risk of loadshedding will be.
He then said it was important that Eskom becomes a viable power utility and that if Eskom were to fail, he said, it is clear that Eskom would place very significant risk on South Africa itself.
“For that reason, there is a requirement for us to have cost reflective tariffs and that these put us in a position where we can recover our reasonably incurred costs so we don’t ask the public to subsidise Eskom’s deficiencies and our excess costs,” he said.