Breakdowns, not a coal shortage, is reason for load-shedding: Eskom

Eskom says that even though there is a shortage of coal, it is not the main reason for ongoing load-shedding.
Eskom says that even though there is a shortage of coal, it is not the main reason for ongoing load-shedding.
Image: 123RF/Artur Nyk

Rotational rolling blackouts resumed on Thursday as Eskom technicians attended to breakdowns at several of its generating units in SA.

Rotational rolling blackouts resumed on Thursday as Eskom technicians attended to breakdowns at several of its generating units in SA.

Stage 2 load-shedding started at 9am and was expected to last until 10pm.

While consumers and business owners lamented the ongoing power cuts - and the reasons behind them - the Middelburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry wanted to know why coal was not being collected at Mpumalanga mines.

"There is no shortage of coal, there are about 170 coal mines that are being mined right now. There is enough coal," the chamber's CEO Anna-Marth Ott said on Thursday.

Ott said workers had informed her that coal was piling up at the mines. She said there were 170 coal mines within a 200km radius of Middelburg.

"Some of the workers are complaining that they are not getting their performance bonuses because the coal is not being collected by Eskom," she told TimesLIVE.

"We barely survived the previous load-shedding. We would like to get this problem solved," she said.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe admitted on Thursday that there was a shortage of coal, but stressed that it was not the main reason for load-shedding.

"We are having load-shedding because there is not enough generating capacity. We didn't say anything about coal. Some people have their agendas," said Phasiwe.

He said a number of generating units were still out of service due to breakdowns.  

Phasiwe said many of the mines in the Middelburg area did not supply coal to Eskom.

"She [Ott] needs to tell us who these people are that she is referring to. We need to know whether these are registered Eskom suppliers, if they are registered Eskom suppliers surely then they should have a service level agreement with Eskom," he added.

He said some of the mines, unable to sell coal to markets overseas, possibly wanted to sell it to Eskom at higher prices.

Eskom signed 27 contracts since beginning of 2018 to get coal to their power stations.

"You cannot just buy coal from people who say they have coal. Coal has to meet a certain level of specification that Eskom wants," he said.

Phasiwe said the power utility was not prepared to buy coal from mines selling it at overseas market prices.

Rotational load-shedding is done to protect the power system from a total collapse - when demand outstrips supply.

Phasiwe said maintenance teams were working hard to bring the units back to service.

Meanwhile the cost of load shedding to the economy is becoming apparent.

Philip Krawitz, executive chairman of Cape Union Mart and five other retail chains with 306 stores throughout the country, told the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry that he had lost more than 180 hours of peak season shopping in a single day.

Supermarket giants, clothing and hardware chains would be affected on a wider scale.

“We are absolutely shocked that once again our December trading is going to be plagued by load shedding,” said Krawitz.

“We are doing our very best to grow the economy and create jobs for the unemployed. We employ over 3,600 people and operate two factories, a uniform company and 306 stores.

“We set realistic targets for growth and budget accordingly.  Unfortunately, all our plans are torpedoed in the face of rolling blackouts throughout the country.”

• This story was updated at 12:15pm.

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