Eskom is setting a record pace for outages and diesel use in May

Business Insider SA
(Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)
(Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

  • Load shedding now hits an average of every 2.3 days, mostly at Stage 2.
  • That is despite liberal use of diesel-fired – and expensive – open-cycle gas turbines intended to bridge short gaps.
  • Planned maintenance levels are higher than last year.
  • Now, Eskom's numbers show, unplanned outages are heading towards 30%.
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A third of the way into May, Eskom is setting a record-breaking pace for breakdowns and the use of its expensive diesel backup generators.

And, if Eskom's worries about the rest of this week turn out to be well-founded, then it will be on track for a load shedding record too.

Thanks to suddenly re-instituted load shedding on Monday afternoon, electricity rationing has now been used for all but three days this month. And those were two Sundays and a public holiday.

For all but one day, load shedding was at Stage 2.

Load shedding now hits, on average, every 2.3 days.

On Monday, Eskom warned about its ability to keep the lights on every day this week during the evening peak hours.

Eskom's data shows that its planned maintenance outages are lower as South Africa slides into winter, as per usual, but are higher than this time last year.

Unplanned outages, though, are still climbing, now at an unplanned capability loss factor (UCLF) approaching 29.8% so far in May, up from 29.4% in April – and from a recent low of 20.5% in August.

Even with load shedding in place, Eskom is burning through diesel at its open-cycled gas turbine (OCGT) plants, intended to provide short bursts of power at key times.

The backup plants ran for almost the entire evening peak period all of last week, right through to 22:00.

Eskom has previously expressed concerns about the impact of Russia's war on Ukraine, and what higher oil prices would mean for its finances as it relies on diesel generators. It has also warned that it is only physically possible to get a limited amount of fuel to those generators, so even if it does not run out of money to keep them going, there is only so much generating they can do.

The company's previous worst-case scenario for winter had been load shedding for a little under half of every month, on average. 

Its extreme worst-case scenario has now pushed that to an average of up to 20 days per month. 

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