THE POWER OF MOLEFE’S SPIN
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