Friday, 20 May 2022 13:44

More sabotage at Eskom as Hendrina power station cable is cut.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Power utility Eskom has been hit yet again by an act of sabotage which further limits its capacity to keep the lights on.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan disclosed in his budget vote speech in parliament on Friday that a critical cable at the Hendrina power station had been cut. The cable was required to start a unit that was undergoing repairs, get it synchronised with the rest of the system and connect it to the grid.

"I was informed by the management of Eskom this morning that yet another incident has taken place at the Hendrina Power Station, where an important cable which is required to start a unit that was undergoing repairs and to get it synchronised with the rest of the system was cut.

"So these flexible copper bars which are required to synchronise this unit to the rest of the power infrastructure was stolen next to the generator and the reactor earth bars, as they are called, were also stolen by obviously people working within the power station, "he said.

Gordhan this incident, along with other incidents, was the reason most South Africans found themselves without electricity this week.

"These are among other revelations that have occurred over the past few days – the corruption with the supply of oil, the cable that was cut at another power station a few days ago – these are all directly related to the load shedding that we experience today over and above other operational issues.

"I thought it was important that the public is aware of some of the challenges we face, something that I will return to," he said

This comes as Eskom on Friday announced yet further load shedding for the weekend due to the continued shortage of generation capacity.

"Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from 17:00 until 22:00 tonight. Loadshedding will be repeated at the same time on Saturday and Sunday evenings," it said in a statement.

The state company pointed to 3,405MW on planned maintenance, while an additional 15,534MW of capacity is unavailable due to breakdowns.

Eskom estimates it needs 4,000 – 6,000 MW of additional capacity immediately if it is to properly maintain its power stations. "This will allow it to take units off-line for repair while maintaining a supply of electricity," said the minister.

"Bid Windows 5 and 6, as well as the RMIPPP, will, at best, deliver an effective 3,000MW which alone will not create the buffer needed.

"The president's announcement of the lifting of licensing restrictions on own generation to 100MW will undoubtedly assist the position. However, red tape is holding up the development of these projects."

Recently, Eskom has opened up land it owns in Mpumalanga for long-term leases to renewable energy developers, said the minister.

Gordhan said Eskom had made significant progress in its financial stabilisation with its ebita (earnings before interest tax and amortisation) showing strong improvement for the 2022 financial year with preliminary, unaudited figures showing an improvement of more than 85% compared with the 2021 results. Debt now stood at R396bn.

He conceded that Eskom was underperforming with its generation with the energy availability factor was languishing at 58% against a target of 75%. An additional 4,000-6,000MW in generation capacity was immediately required so that the utility could undertake the maintenance of power stations.

Progress was being made with implementing the new model of governance of state owned enterprises recommended by the Presidential SOE Council which proposed a centralised shareholder model which would separate the state's ownership function from its policy-making and regulatory functions.

Gordhan said a shareholder bill would be submitted to cabinet for approval and the necessary legal documents for the establishment of the holding company were being drawn up. The council was also working on the consolidation of state owned enterprises.