Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has shut down the possibility of declaring a state of disaster for Eskom as the utility habitually battles unit failures at its power stations, with this recent bout leading to a week-long stretch of Stage 2 load shedding.
“There should… be a distinction made between a state of disaster just for dramatic effect as compared to a power system emergency – which falls within the purview of the systems operator,” Gordhan told a National Assembly plenary session on Wednesday.
“At all times the main imperative is to avoid the total collapse of the grid… There are therefore internal plans to manage the power system that will allow the systems operator to implement up to stage 8 load shedding in order to protect the grid from total collapse.”
The minister said that “at this stage there is absolutely no requirement for Eskom or government to declare certain emergencies.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said at a briefing that the total unplanned capacity out at time, due to unit failures was 14 758MW, which is equal to “three Medupi-size stations” worth of capacity that is unavailable. This necessitated Stage 2 load shedding until Monday morning.
Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer said at that same briefing that while around 4000MW of capacity was out due to maintenance, the work they have to do in integral. Eskom is however ramping down its maintenance during winter.
“We all need to understand, we have a system that is old, and not maintained the way it was supposed to. We need to take these units down for planned maintenance – and we don’t have the luxury because of the country’s demands,” he said.
“Given this, we are trying our best to match capacity to demand. But we have an unreliable and unpredictable system. We will try our utmost to not load shed the country. It does not take away that there is a high risk of load shedding in the winter.”