With only a ‘paper thin reserve margin’, Eskom’s maintenance practices are cited as the root cause of it’s load shedding woes.

National power utility Eskom has (yet again) come under intense scrutiny as it implemented load shedding, contradicting earlier assurances of an uninterrupted power supply at the start of the new year.

City Press reported that Vally Padayachee, a power and electricity expert with a background in Eskom and Johannesburg’s City Power, asserts that Eskom’s maintenance practices are the root cause of the issue, claiming that the utility tends to overcommit to maintenance work, straining the limited teams available for these tasks.

Eskom defends load shedding

Eskom defended the recent load shedding by citing issues such as units not ready for operation as expected and the unexpected breakdown of several units.

The power utility reported that 8,451MW of generation capacity was offline for planned maintenance, with an additional 16,231MW out of service due to breakdowns. Eskom’s total generation capacity stands at around 48,000MW.

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Historically, Eskom has conducted extra maintenance work during December, leveraging lower electricity demand. However, the current reserve margin is described as “paper thin”, making it difficult to perform maintenance without resorting to load shedding.

Breakdowns after repairs

Concerns regarding the efficiency of Eskom’s maintenance practices have been ongoing.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is closely monitoring delays in completing maintenance work, and Eskom itself has expressed concerns about units breaking down shortly after repairs.

In October last year, Eskom’s system operator questioned the effectiveness of ongoing maintenance work, urging a review to improve efficiency.

Padayachee proposes a solution inspired by the aviation industry, suggesting the involvement of an independent team of experts to ensure the thoroughness and effectiveness of repairs.

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Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Business Intelligence, acknowledges the challenging choices Eskom faces in balancing maintenance needs with the strain on the power system.

Yelland highlights the alarming loss of over 24,000MW of generation capacity in the past week and notes a decline in Eskom’s generation fleet performance, with an average availability of 54.7%, down from 58% in 2022, despite increased maintenance efforts.

Eskom’s recent implementation of load shedding, coupled with criticism of its maintenance practices, has raised concerns about the utility’s ability to manage essential maintenance work while ensuring a stable power supply.

Calls for an independent review underscore the need for a comprehensive evaluation of Eskom’s maintenance strategies to address the ongoing challenges


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