Eskom’s declining energy availability factor is raising concern as the power utility continues to battle breakdowns and trips at power stations.

This is according to Eskom Chief Operating Officer (COO), Jan Oberholzer, who was speaking during the power utility’s state of the system update on Monday.

Oberholzer revealed that the current energy availability factor stands at 65% and attributed some of it to planned maintenance outages, while conceding that there were some unplanned outages.

“In our assessment… this is poor performance. A key contributor is our planned maintenance, which had a negative impact but is positive in terms of sustainability. But then we had a number of breakdowns and those are the issues that are really concerning us. We will continue with our reliability maintenance… it’s an ongoing programme,” he said.

Oberholzer confirmed that the grid had lost at least 2 000MW of energy in incidents over the past few months that have put pressure on the system.

“[This] is a significant impact on the constrained system that we have and we’re doing whatever we can to work around [these issues].

“We need to remember that we are dealing with a legacy of the past. We’re dealing with a system that is extremely unreliable and unpredictable, and we’re trying our best in terms of the maintenance and other focus areas to improve this,” he said.

One of those focus areas, Obeholzer said, is to increase the energy availability of the Tutuka, Duvha and Kendall power stations.

He said driving the performance of these three power stations up can potentially make a difference to the amount of energy available for generation.

“If you look at Tutuka, it is actually a shame how we have neglected that power station and the state that it was in some years ago, and what we are trying to do now to fix it. Duvha is exactly the same and with Kendal, we had some significant challenges.

“So [that is] our dedicated focus and hands on focus… If we can get that to perform at 70%, what a massive impact that will make to our energy availability factor and the contribution to lower the risk of loadshedding,” he said.

Despite these challenges, Eskom said it is making “notable strides” in several of its operational units.

“On the coal front, Eskom maintained healthy coal stock levels across its generation fleet, with an average of 48 days’ worth of coal stockpiled at its power stations. This compares favourably with the Grid Code requirement to hold at least 20 days’ worth of stock.

“The work done so far to correct the design defects at the Medupi power station has resulted in a steady improvement and reliability of the Medupi power station generation units.

“This work has also commenced at Kusile, with some of the major design defects already corrected on Unit 1. Kendal Unit 1 is expected to return to service by the end of this year, while the return to service date for Medupi Unit 4 has not yet been determined,” the utility said in a statement.

Eskom said that as of April this year, 38 256 households have been connected to the grid.

Source: South African Government News Agency