By Hügo Krüger and Sdumo Hlope
A team of engineers from Truth in Energy and the Economic Interventionist Forum of South Africa regularly collaborate to monitor Eskom’s performance, using publicly available data and information from whistle-blowers that include members throughout the country’s electricity and energy supply chain.
Through the method, we can triangulate the claims regarding Eskom’s performance and assess the accuracy of Eskom’and the minister of electricity’s claims regarding load shedding.
We would like to alert the public that in the last week of November 2023, a major discrepancy between public communications and data integrity seems to have emerged, prompting us to request transparency from Eskom.
The level of Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) and Planned Capacity Loss Factor published, did not justify the levels of load shedding, especially when we consider the resynchronisation of Kusile’s units.
We have information from our sources that the number of outages reported did not correspond with what was said in public when Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, claimed that heatwaves were responsible for load shedding.
Is Eskom’s data reflective of the true situation?
It’s worth noting the facts and sequence of events:
• On November 18, 2023, Eskom informed that Koeberg Unit 1 would be resynchronised to the grid.
• Koeberg Unit 2 has not yet experienced downtime for a life extension.
• On November 29 at 1.53am, Stage 5 load shedding hit South Africa, despite Eskom announcing the return of Kusile Unit 2 on the same day.
• Rooftop solar in South Africa is estimated to contribute around 3GW during the day.
• During the week of the Rugby World Cup, Eskom’s UCLF was 13GW.
• In the last week of November 2023, Eskom reported 13.5GW of UCLF.
Theoretically, South Africa should have only half a stage of load shedding during the evening peak. Eskom announced Stage 4 during the day?
Our sources tell us about the information for December 1: at 7pm, Eskom had a shortfall of 7.23GW.
Therefore, the UCLF should have been at least 21GW of breakdowns, as opposed to the 13.54GW that was communicated.
Further clarification is required on the nature of the unplanned capacity factor, as our sources tell us that broken down powerplants such as the following units are not included in Eskom’s Dashboard.
• Duvha Unit 3
• Grootvlei Unit 4
• Grootvlei Unit 5
• Grootvlei Unit 6
• 4 broken units at Hendrina
As Dr Frans Cronje, of the Social Research Foundation, argued in June 2023, if a decision were to be taken to bring only the units back online, then South Africa might exit load shedding within 18 months.
It is worth noting that while Eskom published the status of the power stations and units that tripped, the information is no longer being communicated, leading to the suspicion that Eskom is deliberately withholding information.
In addition, breakdowns at each station shows a lack of correlation with the ageing of the plant but rather to poor operations and maintenance practices.
Notable issues include:
• The use of dirty water in the cooling water systems.
• The neglect of proper ash handling.
• Inadequate cleaning of fans at dry-cooled power stations like Medupi, Kusile and Matimba.
• The boiler tube failures that Eskom announced are reported to be entirely operations-related, highlighting a need for improvement in operational practices.
• The institutional culture at Eskom is reportedly so poor that operators often respond with death threats when technical advisers flag issues.
• Our sources indicate that the nature of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act has made it practically impossible for competent Operations and Maintenance contractors to engage with Eskom.
The observations lead to the following conclusions:
• Eskom might not be accurately reporting the UCLF and might not have the capacity it claims.
• A change in operator and a proper reliability programme are lacking at Eskom.
• Eskom has broken down plants that could easily be repaired if there was political will to do so.
• The Cabinet should be aware of the status of Eskom’s fleet following the report by the German company, VGBE Energy, and there is a desire for the report to become public.
• Eskom’s procurement process appears to hinder operations and maintenance from taking place effectively.
KRÜGER is the spokesperson for Truth in Engineering. Hlope is the Chief Executive at EIFSA.