Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
- Eskom suffered a mass breakdown of power station units due to boiler tube leaks.
- Its head of generation said he has “high confidence” that Stage 4 and lower levels will be reached by mid-week.
- The electricity minister responded to an accusation by ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula that Stage 6 load shedding was “clear sabotage”.
- For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.
shedding may continue until mid-week after Eskom suffered a mass breakdown of
power station units due to boiler tube leaks.
Some 4 400MW
of power generation – equal to more than four stages of load shedding – went offline
due to these leaks at nine generation units.
Boilers at coal-fired power stations convert the chemical energy
in coal to kinetic energy via steam piped to turbo generators, where it becomes
electrical energy. Eskom power stations have more than 650 kilometres of tubing.
READ | Watch: Here’s what goes on behind closed doors when Eskom repairs its boiler tube leaks
boiler tube leaks are a major area of concern for Eskom, which is now working
directly with the manufacturers of the equipment to look at the causes of
the problems, said Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa during a briefing on
South Africa was hit by
Stage 6 load shedding on Friday evening as Eskom also had to replenish
its pumped storage dams in preparation for the week ahead.
Eskom generates emergency electricity at three water pumping
plants, one near Grabouw in the Western Cape and two in KwaZulu-Natal (near
Bergville and near Ladysmith).
During weekends and other off-peak periods, Eskom must pump the
water from the bottom to the top dams. This will ensure that there is enough
water at peak periods that can flow down the system through the power
generators to the bottom dams to generate electricity.
Over recent days, solar and wind power generation was also lower
than expected due to “climatic conditions”, said Ramokgopa.
Some of the units that broke down have already returned to power.
Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s head of generation, said he has “high
confidence” that Stage 4 and lower levels will be reached by mid-week.
Responding to a social media post by ANC secretary general
Fikile Mbalula that Stage 6 was the result of “clear sabotage”, Ramokgopa
said he was not discounting that some “elements” may be undermining
efforts to turn Eskom
and Nxumalo did not blame the current outages on sabotage during the briefing.
that investigations into wrongdoing at Eskom were ongoing. Ramokgopa said Eskom is currently investigating one or
two historic incidents where there were failures that couldn’t be explained.
Stage 6 loadshedding clear sabotage. Strong extra security measures are needed.
— ANC SECRETARY GENERAL | Fikile Mbalula (@MbalulaFikile) February 10, 2024
South Africa last experienced Stage 6 in 2023, for six days in November.
Ramokgopa said that Eskom is currently maintaining high levels of maintenance, which is removing some 7 000MW from the grid. This adds to the risk of higher load shedding in case of unexpected breakdowns.
However, this short-term pain is worth the long-term gain as it results in “healthier” power stations, which deliver improved performance following maintenance, he stressed.
Ramokgopa defended President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remark that “the end of load shedding is finally within reach,” in his State of the Nation Address – which was followed promptly by a Stage 6 load shedding crisis.
He said lower levels of load shedding in recent months showed that the country has “turned a corner”, but he did not want to predict when load shedding would end.
From the beginning of March, when more power station units will be coming online, there should be “significant” periods where load shedding during the day would be avoided, he said.