Eskom’s repairs during lockdown has cut risk of load-shedding

Jan Oberholzer. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Jan Oberholzer. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The risk of load-shedding this winter has been significantly reduced thanks to Eskom’s aggressive short-term maintenance drive during the Covid-19 lockdown.

At an Eskom state of the system briefing on Thursday, COO Jan Oberholzer said it had taken advantage of the lower demand during the lockdown to conduct a great deal more short-term opportunistic maintenance, which addresses urgent issues in the system.

For example, that maintenance increased from 3,600MW before lockdown to as much as 9,800MW in the second week of April.

Demand, meanwhile, had dropped off by 20%, although it has almost recovered to pre-lockdown levels in the past two weeks.

“Before we had the lockdown, we forecasted 31 days of stage 1 load-shedding,” said Oberholzer.

“What has helped us in the last eight weeks doing this short-term maintenance — we ran the model again and we are now forecasting three days of load-shedding in the winter that is coming.”

Oberholzer stressed that the system remained unreliable, and so trips and breakdowns would continue to occur.

Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter said the lockdown had, however, hindered the utility’s ability to continue with a so-called “reliability maintenance”, or what was previously termed “philosophy maintenance” which aims to deal with a decade of neglect that has reduced the reliability of Eskom power stations.

For medical reasons relating to the pandemic, it is not possible for the necessary employees and contractors to congregate on site.

However, De Ruyter said Eskom has not been idle and had used the time to put contracts in place with original equipment manufacturers with July 1 as the target date to begin reliability maintenance again.

“We have seen some improvement,” said De Ruyter.

“That we were able to achieve 30,000MW without any diesel last night, is testament to the turnaround we see in generation.”

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