Eskom 'coping' with huge electricity demand

Eskom’s Khulu Phasiwe says the power grid is constrained but stable.

FILE: Eskom has been battling to keep up with demand due to limited generating capacity and ageing infrastructure. Picture: EPA.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom says there's been an increase in electricity demand today due to the wet weather in some parts of the country.

Most businesses have also resumed operations this week after the festive break and inland schools have reopened for the year.

The utility has been battling to keep up with demand due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations.

Eskom's Khulu Phasiwe says the power grid is constrained but stable.

"We are experiencing huge demand on the power grid but we do have enough capacity to meet that demand. However, because we are running an old power grid, sometimes we do experience outages. If that happens, it may bring us closer to load shedding."

Meanwhile, the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee has been granted access to visit two of Eskom's power stations.

Parliament has now allowed the committee to enter the Majuba and Lethabo Power Stations to perform an assessment.

The Democratic Alliance's Shadow Minister for Public Enterprises Natasha Michael says it's important to find out exactly what is happening at these power stations.

"I received a letter from the minister saying she will grant me access to do oversight on the power stations and give us information on the maintenance on the power stations as well as reasons for the silo failures."


Eskom has set itself a new deadline to start synchronising one of the six units from the Medupi Power Station to the national grid.

The utility says the unit at the newly built power station in Limpopo should start up next month but says it will be intermittent while testing takes place.

Eskom missed its December deadline to bring one unit from the Medupi Power Station online, but says this should now happen sometime next month.

The country desperately needs more power supply to ensure load shedding is kept to the minimum.

Eskom's Andrew Etzinger says even when the unit is synchronised to the grid, a lot still needs to be done to add capacity.

"We then go through a test phase, during which the unit will be contributing power to the grid, but it won't be on a consistent basis. That's the purpose of the next couple of months."

Testing is expected to be completed by winter.

The unit will then be optimised and added to the national grid which may help in terms of current capacity.


Eskom says it will run out of money to buy diesel by the middle of next month and it's waiting for feedback from government on whether it will receive funds to keep the lights on.

The utility has warned that without additional funding to buy diesel, load shedding will be continuous and ongoing because the utility won't be able to operate its open gas turbines.

There's still no indication from government when it will announce whether it's willing to help Eskom financially.

Energy experts and economists have meanwhile warned a government bailout will not help Eskom in the long-term to deal with the electricity crisis.

The parastatal said it's expecting about R20 billion from government to help it continue buying diesel.

Energy expert Chris Yelland says Eskom needs to look at the fundamental business problems.

"Throwing money at this is not the solution. It will become like a black hole if you don't address the underlying issues it simply means that in a period of time they will need more money."

Economist Iraj Abedian says a coherent national energy policy is needed.

"The government has failed to come up with a credible and sustainable national energy policy and therefore it has placed extraordinary pressures on Eskom."

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has reportedly read the riot act to Eskom bosses, saying they must sort out their problems which are affecting the economy.

It is understood government will "play its part" but Nene warns that day-to-day operations are the utility's responsibility.