THE POWER OF MOLEFE’S SPIN

CityPress - - Business -

Eskom’s act­ing CEO, Brian Molefe, seemed to be promis­ing mir­a­cles this week: a “tripling” of much-needed power plant main­te­nance, with lit­tle or no load shed­ding – in the mid­dle of win­ter.

Molefe, who has been act­ing for two months, called the high lev­els of win­ter main­te­nance “our new strat­egy”. That echoed the new strat­egy of his short-lived pre­de­ces­sor, Tshediso Ma­tona, in Jan­uary – “main­te­nance at all costs”.

Dur­ing a re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion, Molefe in­di­cated that Eskom had a 7 000MW “win­dow” be­tween win­ter de­mand and its the­o­ret­i­cal gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity.

The new strat­egy in­volves planned main­te­nance of 5 500MW that is be­ing tar­geted “on any given day” in win­ter, ap­par­ently leav­ing only a 1 500MW al­lowance for break­downs, eu­phemisti­cally called un­planned main­te­nance.

The prob­lem is that un­planned out­ages hardly ever drop be­low 5 000MW and are of­ten far higher. There is a lit­tle bit of sleight of hand in Molefe’s prom­ise.

Firstly, 5 500MW is not ac­tu­ally triple the usual win­ter main­te­nance, which av­er­aged about 3 100MW last win­ter and 3 200MW the win­ter be­fore that, ac­cord­ing to an ag­gre­ga­tion of Eskom’s public sys­tems bul­letins.

Se­condly, Eskom doesn’t ac­tu­ally be­lieve it can bring down plant break­downs to only 1 500MW.

Molefe’s pre­sen­ta­tion omit­ted the ex­pen­sive in­de­pen­dent power pro­ducer power – which it is now ask­ing the public to pay R5.8 bil­lion a year for – as well as the in­ter­mit­tent 800MW now com­ing from Medupi, not to men­tion the power com­ing from cel­e­brated re­new­able projects.

These power sources, to­talling about 4 000MW on a sunny day, were left out of the equa­tion, sug­gest­ing Eskom still ex­pects about 5 500MW of break­downs this win­ter.

Brian Molefe, Eskom’s act­ing CEO

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