Cape Town – In less than a month Christmas will be celebrated, however, South Africa will be celebrating it in the dark as the money needed to keep the country lit up, dries up.
Failing power utility Eskom has reached boiling point as it spent R12 billion since April 1 on diesel to run the utility’s open cycle gas turbines.
Initially, Eskom announced its implementation of blackout stage 4 on Sunday from 5pm until Monday, 4pm.
It said Stage 5 blackout would be implemented from 4pm until midnight from Monday to Wednesday.
Load shedding would also vary between stage 4 and 2 during the day until Wednesday.
Eskom spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha said: “Changes in the stages of load shedding will be more erratic due to the absence of the buffer that is normally provided by the diesel-generation capacity between generating unit breakdowns.
“Three units at Kusile Power Station are off-line due to the duct (chimney structure) failure late in October and will remain off-line for a few months while repairs to the chimney system take place. Unit 1 of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station will continue to generate at a reduced output over the next three weeks as the fuel is depleted ahead of the refuelling and maintenance outage scheduled to commence in December 2022.
“Since Sunday morning, a generating unit each at Arnot, Grootvlei, and Majuba power stations were taken off-line for repairs.”
However, on Monday, Mantshantsha said Stage 5 will no longer be implemented.
“Stage 4 load shedding (instead of Stage 5) will be implemented continuously until 5am on Tuesday morning. Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented daily from 5am until 4pm. Stage 4 will be implemented daily at 4pm until 5am until further notice,” he said.
According to News24, Eskom presides over 40 000 MW of baseload capacity, with 6 000 MW additional emergency power generators which include pumped storage schemes and OCGTs.
But, it said Eskom was unable to meet the country’s demand, around 30 000 MW last week.
It said Eskom did not have the money for diesel which could alleviate two stages of blackouts during the peak demand.
According to the publication, the power utility uses enormous amounts of electricity to pump water back to upper holding dams at its three pumped storage stations – Drakensberg, Palmiet and Ingula.
However, during peak periods, Eskom is not able to pump water back into the upper dams.
It said the system needed to have at least 2 000MW in reserve in case of a major emergency. That meant the utility normally stopped running the OCGTs when diesel levels in storage tanks reached about 40% in times when a large number of megawatts are unavailable due to breakdowns.
Last week, South Africans were told to brace themselves for rolling blackouts for the next six to 12 months.
This is due to major capital projects and repairs that will remove more than 2 300 MW of generating capacity from the system.
“Due to the vulnerability and unpredictability of the power system, coupled with the major capital projects, maintenance, and major repairs to be executed starting during the next few months, the risk of continued load shedding remains quite high,” said Eskom’s COO Jan Oberholzer.
On December 8, Unit 1 of the Koeberg nuclear power station, which has provided 384 days of uninterrupted supply will be shut down for normal maintenance and refuelling, and the replacement of the three steam generators as part of the long- term operation to extend the operating life of Africa’s only nuclear power station.
Unit 1, which has been named as one of the power utility’s most reliable generation machines will removed 920 MW of generation capacity from the national grid and is anticipated to return to service in June 2023.
This means at least 3 760 MW will be unavailable to the national grid, News24 reports.