South AfricaEskom will this weekend embark on what it calls a “maintenance festival” in an effort to improve the performance and reliability of its power generating units ahead of the expected peak winter demand,

Eskom said in a statement on Wednesday that about 64% of its current installed base-load power stations are past their midlife, requiring longer outages and extended restoration time than planned.

The statement said that midlife refurbishments or replacements being carried out timeously can reduce equipment failures from occurring, thus improving the ability to provide reliable supply to customers.

Plant availability increases

Since December last year, the availability of the utility’s plant performance has improved from 65% to 70%, which is in line with the company’s vision of achieving an 80% plant availability, 10% planned maintenance and 10% unplanned maintenance in the next three years.

The adherence to regular scheduled maintenance by Eskom is set to limit unplanned maintenance below 7 500 MW in summer and below 5 500 MW in winter.

“We have a maintenance backlog due to commitments made to keep the lights on and this has led to deteriorating power station availability and subsequent load shedding, Eskom’s newly appointed interim chief executive Brian Molefe says.

“We however need a minimum of 3000 MW and maximum of 5000 MW buffer either through supply-side or demand-side options in order to close the backlog within 3 – 5 years and avoid load-shedding,” he adds.

Winter demand

While there is expected to be sufficient power supply to meet demand for most part of the day, in winter the load increase could be up to 36 000 MW particularly over the short sharp evening peak between 17:30 and 18:30, a time period in which residential customers can make the biggest difference, as demand increases mainly in the evenings, says Molefe.

While some generation maintenance will continue to be done throughout the winter, maintenance will wind down in June to assist in ensuring a sustainable generation fleet.

Bright plans

In an effort to ensure that Eskom will be able to meet future electricity requirements, it is currently undertaking a R280-billion capital expenditure programme over 5 years.

In the next five years Eskom aims to add over 17 000 MW of new capacity to the national grid; 9 756 km of new transmission lines and 42 470 MVA of transmission strengthening.

To date, over 6 238 MW of new capacity has already been added and 5 814 km of transmission lines and 29 655 MVA have been installed, the statement says.

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