Eskom maintenance not affected by Covid-19 so far – expects to be impacted by lockdown

Business Insider SA
Google Earth imagery.
The current state of Medupi as of January 2020. Source Google Earth imagery.
  • South Africa’s national power utility, Eskom, says their maintenance plans will go ahead during lockdown.
  • Once lockdown starts it does expect to be affected.
  • The month of April is critical for Eskom’s maintenance plan. With the Easter weekend, and school holidays, it is a low demand period. 
  • As per Eskom’s Weekly Status Report (week 11), Eskom would like to ramp up planned maintenance to between 5 000MW and 7 000MW if possible. 
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.  

South Africa’s national power utility, Eskom, says their maintenance plans will go ahead during lockdown. Repair work so far has not been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. 

“Up to now we have put the plans in place and those plans have been working well and no major impact to current maintenance,” said a spokesperson. 

The March and April months are critical month for Eskom’s maintenance. With the Easter weekend, and school holidays, it is a low demand period in which the utility can service and prepare stations for winter when grid demand is at its peak. 

As an essential service it will be business as usual for the power utility as it continues to work on fixing its ageing fleet of coal stations, throughout the lockdown. However it does expect to be affected.  

The utility said that with the global impact of Covid-19, the maintenance programme will be affected by some support suppliers who are based overseas.

An Eskom spokesperson told Business Insider that the utility fully supports the government drive to limit or contain the spread of Covid-19. Emergency management is a top priority and is overseen by the Emergency Response Command Centre (ERCC), which is an Exco level committee. 

“Plans are in place to ensure maintenance readiness and the timeous delivery of primary energy resources.” 

Stringent measures to ensure the safety of its maintenance divisions are being implemented including: specific actions such as sanitising; social distancing; additional sanitising of critical workspaces; separation of critical teams; working from home where feasible; and quarantining of critical staff. 

Each division, including Generation has a Tactical Command Centre (TCC, or GTCC for Generation). The GTCC provides guidance to the power stations and each does a risk assessment and activates its business continuity plans to ensure that disruptions to the generation of electricity are avoided or minimised. 

With a week of ‘social distancing’ (16 March to 22 March) Eskom did not see any abnormal drop in grid demand. 

Source: Eskom.
Eskom graph showing daily peak demand forecast vs actual (average for the peak hour) for the week 16 March to 22 March 2020. The two curves are very close to each other with some days actual demand even higher than forecast. Source: Eskom.

While one would expect electricity demand to drop as a result of many businesses working from home, during last week's ‘social distancing’, from 16 March to 22 March, Eskom said it did not see abnormal changes in the national electricity demand. 

“The only changes were due to schools closing earlier than expected, which resulted in the lower morning peaks.” 

Demand normalised after 10:00, which Eskom said was typical for school holidays. 

“Cooler weather conditions that persisted last week also contributed to the slightly higher demand.” 

It remains to be seen if lockdown will help ease the demand on the grid from Friday 27 March. 

While the system remains constrained, Eskom does not expect to implement load shedding it said on Tuesday. Unplanned breakdowns were at 11 519 Mega Watts (MW) and planned maintenance at 3 866 MW. 

Eskom Weekly Status Report (week 11)
Eskom forecast demand vs. available generating capacity for each week for 3 months ahead. Colour codes ranging from Green (no shortage) to Red (worst case) are used to indicate the absence or presence of a capacity constraint. Source: Eskom Weekly Status Report (week 11).

Eskom’s Weekly Status Report (week 11) shows that the utility would like to ramp up planned maintenance to a minimum of 5 000MW and a maximum of 7 000MW if possible. 

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