Maybe it was the flue fuel duct of unit one at Kusile Energy Station ripping away from the chimney that was the ultimate straw for Rhulani Mathebula, who till Monday was performing Group Govt for Era.
The primary name made by the supervisor of Kusile would’ve been to Mathebula.
Not solely does this “structural failure” at Kusile imply this unit will probably be offline for numerous months – the ducts of models two and three are in the identical chimney, so these models are offline too.
This interprets into 2 400 megawatts (MW) of nameplate capability misplaced.
Learn: Chimney collapses at Kusile energy plant
Extra realistically, because of the quite a few design defects at each Kusile and Medupi leading to decrease technology output, about 1 600MW is unavailable. That is almost equal to Stage 2 load shedding.
Or possibly, for Mathebula, it was the truth that the proportion of Eskom’s energy stations truly producing energy has plummeted to never-seen-before lows.
The vitality availability issue (EAF) for its technology fleet is at 58.5% thus far this yr, a sizeable decline from the 62% achieved within the final monetary yr (to end-March).
Mathebula was certainly a reluctant performing chief of probably the most troubled unit at Eskom.
He took the job in Could after Phillip Dukashe, the then everlasting head, resigned. The utility mentioned on the time that “in his resignation letter and discussions with Eskom executives, Mr Dukashe has cited the vital want to realize a stability for the advantage of his well being, household and work obligations”.
Quick ahead six months and Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer on Tuesday instructed journalists: “When [Mathebula] tabled his resignation, he mentioned the demand of the job was untenable, and it impacted his well being and household time. We have to perceive the demand of this position, and the demand on the pinnacle of technology in turning this ship round.”
Mathebula’s is the telephone that rings when 5 models at totally different energy stations journey in a single day.
Or when there are journeys within the very early hours of the morning necessitating Stage 6 load shedding, as was the case on September 20. Earlier than him, Dukashe’s rang.
Mathebula is not any stranger to the position, having acted in it previous to Dukashe’s appointment simply 13 months earlier than. Mathebula has been on the utility for 19 years. Dukashe had been there for 26. Each had been energy station managers up to now and possessed huge expertise.
He was not nonetheless imagined to be on this job – the recruitment course of began in Could.
Dream job that’s a nightmare
This place – Group Govt for Era – should be the top of an Eskom supervisor’s profession.
It’s arguably crucial govt position at Eskom and as soon as the utility is lastly break up into three, whoever heads technology will run the largest chunk of the enterprise. However the present mess inside this unit implies that whoever takes the job will successfully simply be doing disaster administration.
Who may need to willingly join this? Have been there even any functions from credible candidates?
Three white males …
And so, Eskom has turned to Thomas Conradie, the facility station supervisor at Lethabo.
Conradie has been on the utility for twenty-four years, having beforehand run Kriel, Matla and Majuba. Lethabo is at the moment one of many energy firm’s three best-performing energy vegetation – Eskom describes it elsewhere in its presentation as a “flagship station”.
This leaves Eskom with the politically, ahem, ‘uncomfortable’ state of affairs the place its three most senior executives are actually (pretty outdated) white males.
Will Conradie have the ability to obtain any significant outcomes?
Hiring and firing at Eskom may be very exhausting work. For instance, it’s taken over a yr to conclude the “consequence administration” course of for the workers who blew the model new unit 4 at Medupi to smithereens. Two staff had been fired for his or her position within the incident, which is able to value R2.5 billion to restore.
The plan is to someway flip across the six worst-performing giant energy stations: Tutuka, Kendal, Duvha, Majuba, Kusile and Matla. These all have capability of over 3 000MW and Eskom says they’ve been “particularly chosen as they’re among the many highest contributors to unplanned load losses”.
“Any enchancment in these stations will lead to huge beneficial properties in EAF for technology as an entire,” says Eskom.
By March 2024, in different phrases in its subsequent monetary yr, the utility hopes to realize an EAF of 65%.
It is a mammoth ask, particularly since Koeberg unit one will probably be offline for the alternative of its steam mills.
Learn: Eskom warns of Koeberg undertaking danger
It’s nevertheless optimistic – it says it has turned across the efficiency of Medupi.
By 2024, issues look higher with the completion of Kusile and the return of Medupi unit 4. And whereas extra renewables capability is added to the grid by then, Eskom will ramp up the closure of outdated stations as per their dead-stop dates.
For now, load shedding will stay “till there’s ample capability within the nation”.
Eskom’s hopelessly out of contact “base case” state of affairs for summer season (September to March) sees simply seven days of as much as Stage 1 load shedding. A extra real looking state of affairs, with a mean of 14 500MW of breakdowns, sees 126 days of load shedding exceeding Stage 2.