Eskom problems. Picture: Twitter
A 2,000MW underestimation of SA’s energy needs, failing units causing generation failure, unplanned breakdowns, and a higher demand of 600MW yesterday pushed Eskom to announce stage 6 load shedding for the first time in South Africa’s history.
Eskoms unplanned breakdowns began on December 5, with a loss of 12,300MW causing stage 2 load shedding, rapidly escalating to stage 4 the next day, “necessitating the use of diesel and water reserves for open cycle gas turbines and pumped storage schemes respectively,” Eskom said.
“With the incessant rain, we continue to experience coal-handling problems at a number of our power stations as a result of wet coal, which has led to generation units being unable to produce power.”
Since then it’s gone from bad to worse, with Eskom announcing its loss of generation capacity had reached 14,200MW by yesterday morning.
“In addition, with the incessant rains we are beginning to experience flooding at some power stations, which have further led to load losses and has impacted supply as the rainy weather persists,” Eskom announced.
“Even during this stage, approximately 80% of the country’s demand is still being met,” Eskom stated, not realising that for those under load shedding, 100% of their demand was not being met.
Energy expert and founder of Adapt (an advisory service for sustainable development), Lauren Hermanus believed nothing Eskom was experiencing was unexpected – to those people inside Eskom.
“Operationally there are big issues, on the one hand there are the internal complexities of the organisation, and when Eskom switches between stage two or stage four these come as a shock to everybody, but actually Eskom’s story of dysfunction is more than a decade old,” Hermanus said.
“And it has being getting progressively worse, certainly there is some new mode of crisis. I can’t believe they didn’t see this coming and I don’t know why they were not better prepared. Eskom is so unaccountable to us citizens we have no idea what is really going on inside the company.”
Hermanus said the explanations Eskom was handing out were almost the same as those given in 2007/8, and believed one way to alleviate Eskom’s supply problems would be to allow municipalities to source their own supplies.
“And to allow it in a way which is managed. The way we are going now with the increasing uncertainty from Eskom means companies – basically anyone who can afford it – is going to opt out of the grid,” Hermanus said.
“This means those left with Eskom are going to be the poorest municipalities, the poorest neighbourhoods, and small businesses which are barely getting by in an environment which is hardly amenable to business anyway.”
Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer told the SABC yesterday demand had “for some reason” increased by “just under 2,000MW more than what we had anticipated”.
He also noted Koeberg unit one was busy with refuelling which had taken 1000MW off the system and would only come online again at the end of December.
“The demand will also be dropping [during December] and we will make use of this opportunity to do more maintenance so that’s why I believe the risk of load shedding from the middle of December is relatively low,” Oberholzer said.
Eskom’s load shedding stages.
Understanding load shedding stages
Stage 1 requires the least amount of load shedding – three times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or three times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
Stage 2 will double the frequency of stage 1, which means you should have load shedding six times over a four-day period for two hours at a time.
Stage 3 will increase the frequency of stage 2 by 50%, which means you should have load shedding nine times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or nine times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
Stage 4 will double the frequency of stage 2, which means you should have load shedding 12 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time.
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