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South Africa fails to avoid Zimbabwe type load shedding

by Staff reporter
28 Jun 2022 at 11:10hrs | Views
Embattled and underperforming Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter said the power utility was working to restore capacity to power stations to mitigate the "very real risk" of Stage 6 load shedding on Tuesday evening.

Eskom said the loss of further capacity overnight at the utility's operations heightened the risk that stage 6 load shedding would be implemented. Eskom leadership said obstruction of access to stations by protesting workers escalated to intimidatation and the torching of vehicles at various sites.

In an urgent virtual briefing announced and convened on short notice, Eskom management said disruptions to its operations and obstructions to access to its power stations persisted and worsened the country's power situation.

This follows protests at Eskom operations over a wage talks deadlock which plunged South Africa into Stage 4 load shedding last week.

However, Eskom warned that managerial staff currently on site were either being intimidated by striking protestors or were insufficient to address the the constraints at units, worsening the already dire stage 4 load shedding situation.

De Ruyter said ten units were lost during the period and suffered 5622 MW partial losses and load loss of 14 204 MW. Associated loss occurred due to the unavailability of coal and labour related protests, which took away another 3661 MW of capacity, he said.

"We find ourselves in stage 4 load shedding already, [and] we have had a significant deterioration overnight. We had 10 units... [that were lost] and as a result it has become necessary to implement stage 6 load shedding at peak tonight," said De Ruyter.

De Ruyter said the entity was working double time to avoid the worsening of load shedding through the day. He said with 31 990 MW of demand and only 24 124 MW available, there was a risk of shortfall, but that Ankerlig and Gourikwa open cycle gas turbines are burning diesel and looking to source more.

"This situation creates substantial risk. We want to restore 4000 MW back to service by this afternoon. If we restore that, we could avert Stage 6. But the risk is there and we are therefore communicating with the public," De Ruyter said.

The CEO said unlawful action continued and intensified overnight as managerial staff braved the capacity needs of stations. De Ruyter warned that even after the strike is over, a maintenance backlog will create significant risk for prolonged load shedding.

"We have seen instances of violence and intimidation. This is, of course to be deplored. Union leadership have disavowed this and they say they are not involved in the intimidation. Eskom has obtained an interdict preventing this kind of action," said De Ruyter.

Eskom management will hold an urgent and confidential meeting with labour later in the morning. It is also attempting to address the backlog and hopefully establish a operating shift that will allow Eskom to restore its capacity.

Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer said the ten units that were lost included three at Medupi, three and Thuthuka and one at Duvha, and one at Kendal. The entity managed to restore two of the units. Oberholzer said, with appropriate responses, Eskom could avoid stage 6 load shedding on Tuesday evenign and remain on stage 4.

"Four of the units will not be able to return to service today due to prolonged maintenance. however two are expected to return today. We hope four can be returned by the evening, although we will not have the benefits of that restoration," said Oberholzer.

Oberholzer said open cycle gas turbines use has increased dramatically and diesel tanks are being put to work and Eskom was working on sourcing diesel for them.

Eskom acting head of generation Rhulani Mathebula said if employees returned to duty soon, the entity would be able to restore the majority of the capacity which has been lost. Until then "skeleton staff" were working to bring units back to full swing, Mathebula said.

No arrests have been made, although Eskom is considering legal options such as criminal charges. Eskom has not received a date for conciliation at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

On the union front, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is demanding a 12% wage increase, while the National Union of Mineworkers has demands ranging between 8% and 10% and Solidarity is demanding 5.9%.

Eskom revised their offer upwards to 5% and maintains it cannot afford double digit increases.

Operational plans have been made for load shedding up to Stage 8, as a contingency measure should that become necessary to prevent a national blackout when demand exceeds supply, taking down the grid entirely.

Here is what the different stages of load shedding mean.

At every stage of load shedding, Eskom rations the country by a further 1,000MW of power, the equivalent of 1,000,000 kilowatts (A microwave or kettle uses around 1 kilowatt, so one way to think of the stages is that at every escalation, Eskom switches off a million kettles.)

At Stage 1, South Africa as a whole is forced to save 1,000MW, or a million kettles, which – depending on the choices of local governments – mean either short outages for individual electricity users or blackouts in only small parts of cities.

At Stage 2 the national grid is short 2,000MW, or two million kettles, at stage 3 rationing reaches 3,000MW, and so on.

How suburbs and towns are affected by every stage depends on a range of factors, including what time of day the electricity emergency is declared. The exact social and economic impact is hard to estimate, and guesses range widely .

However, by Stage 4 the shortage is equivalent to nearly the full installed generating capacity of the giant Medupi power station – which it is now estimated will cost R18 billion to complete.

At Stage 5 Eskom is unable to supply as much electricity as South Africa has committed to buying from the giant Inga 3 hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo – after doubling its initial offtake intention – and at Stage 6 the rationing is the equivalent of all the power Ethiopia hopes to generate by harnessing the Blue Nile.

If Stage 6 is implemented for a 24-hour period, most people will find themselves without power for six hours on that day though that may be split into blocks of two hours. Eskom last implemented Stage 6 in December 2019. At the time, Eskom provided 20 minutes notice for the shift between Stage 4 (the current stage now) and Stage 6.

Stage 7 sheds as much electricity as all South Africa's initial 47 independent producers of renewable energy produced.

At Stage 8, Eskom estimates, the average South African will be supplied with power for 50% of the time, with connections turned off for 12 hours out of every 24.

Source - news24
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