Eskom Plans for More Repairs Without South Africa Power Cuts

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. plans to increase maintenance on power plants during South Africa’s winter to the most on record without more scheduled electricity cuts, Acting Chief Executive Officer Brian Molefe said.

“We are trying to do maintenance with little or no load-shedding,” Molefe told reporters in Johannesburg Wednesday, referring to planned rolling blackouts. The state-owned utility will take “an unprecedented” 5,500 megawatts of capacity off the grid, he said, the most it’s yet done in the country’s colder months of May to August.

Power shortages are hampering a recovery in the economy from the slowest growth since a 2009 recession. Eskom, which provides 95 percent of electricity to the continent’s most-industrialized nation, is battling to upgrade aging plants at the same time as building new generation. The utility connected the first unit of its Medupi coal-fired plant on March 2, eight years after construction began.

Independent power producers are contributing 1,872 megawatts to the grid, 1,300 megawatts come from renewable sources such as solar and wind, he said.

The 800-megawatt Medupi unit “is on track” to come into commercial operation by the end of August, Molefe said.

New Capacity

The company will add more than 17,000 megawatts of new capacity to the national grid over the next five years as it spends 280 billion rand ($22.5 billion) to upgrade plants, 64 percent of which are in their midlife, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

The Democratic Alliance, which is the country’s biggest opposition party, “will continuously monitor and pursue every avenue available to hold Eskom to account after the repeated claims that the energy provider will supply 100 percent of electricity most days and 96 percent during peak periods,” Shadow Minister of Public Enterprise Natasha Mazzone said in an e-mailed statement.

Eskom’s goal is for 80 percent of its plants to be available at all times in the next three years, with 10 percent to be out for planned maintenance and the rest on unforeseen breakdowns, the utility said. It will limit the unplanned work to 7,500 megawatts in the summer and 5,500 megawatts in the winter, when there is more demand.

Those caps will allow Eskom to avoid power cuts, Molefe said. “As long as we do under 7 gigawatts of maintenance in winter, we’re able to do the work without load-shedding,” he said.

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