Only two of Eskom’s fifteen power stations — Lethabo and Matimba — meet the energy availability factor (EAF) target of 75%, while the newly built Kusile has an EAF of only 24%.
This was revealed by Netwerk24, citing data shared by Eskom’s acting head of maintenance, Paula Goatley.
Political and trend analyst, JP Landman, highlighted that South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) assumes an EAF of 75%. Eskom’s own planning assumed an EAF of more than 70%.
Eskom failed miserably to meet these two targets. Only the Lethabo and Matimba power stations were able to meet Eskom’s own 70% EAF target.
The reason for the poor performance, Landman said, is twofold.
- Old power stations are poorly maintained, which cause breakdowns.
- New power stations have defects, which make them perform like old power stations.
“More than 50% of the power stations are now 38 years old and have been poorly maintained. Old equipment poorly maintained cannot deliver high EAFs,” he said.
“Secondly, there are serious design faults with both Medupi and Kusile, preventing these two plants from operating at capacity.”
Energy expert Chris Yelland said the new power plants — Medupi and Kusile — which were supposed to resolve South Africa’s load-shedding crisis, are performing poorly.
The Medupi power station has an energy availability factor of around 60%, while Kusile is even lower at less than 30%.
To make the situation worse, a generation unit at Medupi has been destroyed in an explosion and cannot be repaired. It will take years to replace the whole unit.
“These new plants are therefore performing like old plants and are not helping to increase Eskom’s energy availability factor,” he said.
The chart below shows the EAF of Eskom’s power stations.
Energy analyst Mike Rossouw said 2021 had been the worst year ever regarding Eskom’s power plant availability.
“This year, Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) is around 50%. It has never been this low,” Rossouw said in an ENCA interview.
The low EAF has a knock-on effect on Eskom’s operations. As there is insufficient electricity to meet demand, Eskom cannot take additional capacity offline for maintenance.
As maintenance is not performed as needed, unplanned breakdowns increase further, and load-shedding therefore increases.
Former Eskom executive and acting CEO Matshela Koko described the situation as disastrous.
“The traditionally stable power stations at Eskom are showing signs of collapse,” said Koko.
He also has a warning for the country — “If you think the situation is dire now, wait until February 2022 when the units at Koeberg are taken offline until June for the replacement of steam generators”.
MyBroadband asked Eskom about the problems at its power stations, but the company did not respond.
The chart below shows Eskom’s EAF between January 2001 to November 2021.