The Real Reason Behind Eskom’s Power Strategy During the Rugby Season

Setting the Stage: Here’s the scoop: It’s a myth that Eskom kept the lights on just for the thrill of rugby. For nearly a fortnight, Eskom dodged the dreaded load-shedding, only to reintroduce “Stage 2 and Stage 3” come 4 pm Sunday. Monday saw a dance between Stage 3 overnight and Stage 2 throughout the day. But, why the hiatus?

Not All About the Rugby: Despite the whispers, Eskom’s actions over the past week had zilch to do with the Rugby World Cup or the Springboks’ triumph. Eskom’s load-shedding break began around 10 pm on October 19. Here’s a look into the backstory:

Kusile Power Station – The Star Player: Remember the flue duct debacle last year at Kusile? Two units from there made a comeback, adding a potential 1,600 MW to the grid. Yet, with initial hiccups, it translated to roughly 1,000 MW.

“Considering these units had a year-long downtime, it’s uncertain if they’ve even hit full steam,” a source noted.

This comeback, combined with a surge in the coal fleet’s efficiency, handed Eskom its longest load-shedding break since the previous September.

Coal Fleet Performance: This unit has been the show-stopper, delivering above 20,000MW consistently. To put it into perspective, during the harsh winter, they barely touched 18,000MW.

“Last week, we clocked several hours above 22,000MW,” an insider revealed.

That bumped Eskom’s energy availability factor to a yearly high of 60.46%, a significant leap from its previous 59%.

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More Powerhouses in the Game: The coal fleet wasn’t the sole MVP. Recent data hinted at a slight dip in its contribution.

  • Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs): Eskom leaned heavily on these, especially over the last week, with diesel burning becoming the norm. There were instances where they hinged on a massive 1,800MW solely from diesel combustion.
  • IPPs & Renewables: Eskom’s ally Avon, along with Dedisa, pumped in over 800MW. The renewable sector, especially wind energy, chipped in with figures hovering around 2,500MW. The cold front, with its windy days, added some muscle to this.Solar energy wasn’t far behind. During daylight, Eskom factored in around 1,500MW to 1,900MW from solar photovoltaic.
  • Residential & Business Power: An unsung hero, nearly 4,000MW came from residential and business installations, effectively reducing the midday demand.

Eskom’s Digits: To crunch some numbers, Eskom cited:

“Breakdowns are currently at 16,150MW of generating capacity while the capacity out of service for planned maintenance stands at 5,950MW”.

A projection for Monday night? A peak demand touching 27,557MW, which is a significant 5,000MW drop compared to the winter peak.

The Bottom Line: Yes, Eskom might have strategically timed its power supply, but it certainly wasn’t all in honor of rugby. With a blend of careful management, reliance on various energy sources, and a bit of weather luck, they managed to power through. At least for a short while. As we gaze into the coming months, one can only hope they employ similar strategies to keep the lights on.