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Assessment of Eskom coal fleet warns ‘fixation on the EAF is a dead end’


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Assessment of Eskom coal fleet warns ‘fixation on the EAF is a dead end’

Coal station

1st March 2024

By: Terence Creamer
Creamer Media Editor


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  • The Vgbe report commissioned by the National Treasury to assess the state of the coal fleet
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An expert assessment of the state of Eskom’s 14 coal-fired power stations conducted between March and May 2023 describes the prevailing “fixation” on the coal fleet’s energy availability factor (EAF) as a “dead end” that is leading to poorer plant performance.

Conducted for the National Treasury by a Vgbe-led consortium, the report noted that outage and maintenance activities had been deferred over the last months and years to lift – or at least to maintain – the EAF.


Rather than restoring the plants to “as new conditions” after outages, the priority had instead been to “quickly” fix generation bottlenecks, which resulted in plants being forced to continue operating at the expense of their technical condition.

“The consequences are reflected in the high number of incidents, trips and partial load losses,” the authors state.


The cycle, they add, has gained so much momentum that it could lead to the collapse of plants or to further capacity losses.

“It must be stopped immediately by executing proper maintenance and outage work – even if this means a higher level of loadshedding for a limited period of time.

“Moreover, up to 6 000 MW in partial load losses could be reactivated by fixing the plants’ defects and applying prudent operation and maintenance practice.”

That said, the report also notes that, at about 51%, Eskom’s coal fleet EAF is much lower than international norms of 78% despite Eskom’s maintenance budgets being higher.

Nevertheless, the EAF recommendations in the assessment appear to conflict with Eskom’s Generation Recovery Plan, which is still premised on recovering the EAF to 65% by the end of March and to 70% by March 31, 2025.

The National Treasury said that some of the reports findings would be incorporated into Eskom’s 2024/25 Corporate Plan but did not offer specifics.

The assessment, which was compiled as part of an effort to understand the state of the coal fleet after the National Treasury extended a R254-billion debt-relief package to Eskom, attributed the low EAF to a “dysfunctional” and overly complex management system within Eskom Generation.

The report concludes that the solution lies in improving operation and maintenance and conducting these activities according to industry standards, including by decentralising decision-making and providing power station managers with “full budget responsibility and accountability”.

“This change in governance requires changes in the management structure of the Generation Division.

“The Vgbe team proposes decoupling the coal fleet from the rest of the generation business.

“The sole objective of this coal division should be the revitalisation of the existing power plants.”

The report was released on the same day that Dan Marokane formally took up his position as CEO of the embattled State-owned utility with a board instruction to assess the Generation Operational Recovery Plan during his first 100 days in office.

The board also indicated that he should prioritise a review of the unbundling plans and engagements with internal and external stakeholders.


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