Eskom claims it has arrested the declining trend of the Energy Availability Factor

  • Eskom would like to give some context backed by empirical data to correct some misconceptions on the article published by BusinessTech on 19 February 2024 with the heading “Eskom is going backwards”.
  • South Africa’s state owned and state run energy utility currently cannot meet the energy demand of the country forcing the implementation of rotational blackouts of up to 10 hours daily.
  • The utility is also in a dire financial situtation with unsustainable debt of over R420 billion due to poor planning, poor management, unqualified cadre deployment, theft, fraud, corruption and sabotage. Read more
  • The disgraced utility, once an institution of national pride, now relies on massive tax payer bailouts to survive. Read more
  • It is not unusual for Eskom to loose five generation units in one night shift at any one of their 14 coal fired power stations. Read more 

Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) has been historically on a linear decline of an average 3.8% since 2018 until January 2023 according to the utility. They claim that year-on-year from January 2023 to January 2024, the year-to-date EAF shows a positive trend, moving from 50% to 55%, an increase of 5%. This improvement, although marginal, is as a result of the implementation of the Generation Operational Recovery Plan which was approved by the current Board they say. The EAF trend is shown in the graph below.

Respected energy analyst, Chris Yelland, will argue that the latest Eskom Energy Availability Factor (EAF) for Week 7, 2024, is 52.79%, with the year-to-date EAF slightly lower than for the same period last year. This despite the return to service of 3 x 800 MW generator units (Units 1, 2 and 3) at Eskom Kusile Power station in November 2023, and the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 4 to the grid in December 2023. It is important to note that Chris’s calculations are based on Eskom supplied data and not NECOM’s data.

Eskom week-on-week energy availability factor EAF for 2023. Data source: Eskom. Image credit: Chris Yelland. Chris is an energy analyst, consultant, electrical engineer, public speaker, writer and MD at EE Business Intelligence (Pty) Ltd. Follow Chris on X@chrisyelland

We must also consider that in June last year, South Africa’s Minister of Electricity in the Presidency, Dr Kgosientsho David “Sputla” Ramokgopa, said that Eskom was much closer to achieving its EAF target of 70%. Read more

But based on the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) calculations, Eskom says that not only has the plan started to yield desirable results in as far as EAF is concerned but the Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (unplanned outages) has also taken a positive turn from 34% of the generation capacity in January 2023 to 30% in January 2024 as shown in the graph below.

Eskom says that improvement of the EAF and unplanned outages is as a result of concerted efforts focusing on priority power stations (Kusile, Kendal, Majuba, Matla, Tutuka and Duvha) where each power station has its own detailed recovery plan. A total of 3 510MW was recovered by January 2024 through these interventions. However, just this week five generation units were taken out of service at Kendal power station in a single night shift with no reason given. Read more

Eskom adds that they also took a conscious decision to increase its Planned Capacity Loss Factor (planned maintenance) during the summer period to an average of 8 000MW. The highest level of planned maintenance was performed between December 2023 and January 2024, reaching an average of 18% of the generation capacity. A similar spike of planned maintenance was last implemented around November and December 2020. This deliberate spike in planned maintenance is aimed at improving the reliability of the generation fleet to deliver long term benefits and ensure security of energy supply. Although heightened maintenance negated the EAF, it is necessary. The graph below depicts the PCLF trend.

The gradual improvement brought about by the Generation Operational Recovery Plan has as a matter of fact, starting to be visible in as far as the frequency and intensity of loadshedding in the past five and half months, September 2023 to mid-February 2024, as shown in the graph below.

Furthermore, as shown in the table below, a comparison of loadshedding between December 2022 and February 2023 (from 1 December 2022 to 16 February 2023) and in the same period (1 December 2023 to 16 February 2024), indicate that there was a reduction of loadshedding hours from 1 801.25 hours to 1 217.98 hours, which is about 600 hours less.

Eskom explains that from the table above, in the same period, there has been 57 days of loadshedding of which 14 days were at stages 4, 5 and 6 of loadshedding in December 2023 and January 2024 compared to the 78 days, of which 66 were at stages 4, 5 and 6, in the same period previously. “Therefore, the notion that Eskom’ is experiencing a further decline in performance is not true. It is also important to emphasise that the setback of implementing Stage 6 from 09 February 2024 midnight until 11 February 2024 midday was an outlier as a result of the multiple generation units taken offline.”

The utility concludes, “It should also be noted that while the EAF may not be where we want it to be, Eskom arrested the declining trend of EAF which has been ongoing since the past six years. The reduction in the intensity and frequency of loadshedding as well as the positive EAF trajectory are the real signs that there is some improvement in the performance of the generation fleet. The focus remains on sustaining this trajectory. Therefore, Eskom dispels the misrepresentation that there is a further decline in its Generation performance.”

Related news: Eskom is actually in a ‘utility death spiral’ with declining revenue and generation capacity plus usustainable debt

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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