According to Calib Cassim, Eskom’s interim CEO, the performance of some of its coal plants is improving, boding well for Eskom’s goal of reaching 70% availability by fiscal year 2025.
Still, the utility appears to have little prospect of meeting its 60% target by the end of this month.
On the evening of Thursday, March 16, Eskom stated that six of its coal plants had reached energy availability factors (EAF) of 70% in the previous week, “a milestone last reached on May 8, 2022”.
The EAF has been steadily declining in recent years and the reality is a far cry from the 75% availability assumption that underpins South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP).
Despite the need to update it every two years, the IRP that serves as the basis for the capacity plans for new generations was last revised in 2019.
The evaluation is part of the government’s energy crisis plan.
Due to unforeseen breakdowns, the average availability of Eskom’s generating set in the first 10 weeks of 2023 is only 52.36%. In 2022 that was an average of 58%.
In the week ending March 12, 35.47% of capacity was unavailable due to unforeseen outages. In 2022, the average was 29.86%. These are the most recent stats from Eskom. It is generally updated every Wednesday.
According to Clyde Mallinson, director of Virtual Energy and Power, the EAF for the coal fleet in the first nine weeks of this year is even lower, at 45.64%. He also warns that the available units are becoming overloaded.
Eskom fleet and coal fleet energy availability factors (EAF) through week 9, 2023. YTD EAF for the entire fleet is 52%. The coal fleet EAF YTD is 45.64% and the capacity factor is 45.2%. This means that all available coal units are used for almost 100%. Not good. pic.twitter.com/CC8tIVwKsE
— Clyde Mallinson (@ClydeMallinson) March 13, 2023
Eskom’s new board set a goal of reaching 60% availability by the end of March, but former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter warned before his abrupt departure in February that this target would not be met.
Eskom has admitted that it is not getting the desired results from the maintenance work it does and that units often fail shortly after being returned to service after scheduled maintenance.
However, Cassim points to early signs of progress.
According to the Eskom statement, three of the coal-fired power stations, Camden, Duvha and Matla, have “experienced a sustained upward trend due to a reduction in plant breakdowns and the return to service of some units that were operating . unplanned outages. Lethabo, Matimba and Medupi continue to perform well and are among Eskom’s top three performing stations. In addition, Lethabo was able to maintain its performance after a quick recovery following a wet coal incident last week due to flooding following excessive rainfall.
Cassim says: “Although this is still early progress, it shows a positive trajectory of actions taken to restore Eskom power plants. This is in line with Eskom’s target of achieving 70% EAF by fiscal year 2025.”
This improvement appears to have enabled Eskom to reduce load shedding from almost continuous phases four and five, in which it was shedding up to 5,000 MW at a time, to phase three during the day.
According to EskomsePush, until March 17, a period of 75 days, the country experienced 1,796 hours of tax loss.