South Africa: Coal reserves reach crisis point

Image: Construction Review Online

South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, has announced that its coal reserves have reached crisis point with a majority of its power stations operating at below the set 21-day margin which prevents services from being affected.

During the announcement on Monday, Eskom said it currently has less than 20 days worth of coal supplies at 10 of its 15 power stations, positing a thread to the national power supply.

The constraints at the power plants in the coal-rich Mpumalanga province are mainly due to the company that supplies them being under business rescue. Among the affected power stations are Hendrina, Komati and Majuba.

In addressing the issue, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said in an interview with Business Day TV that the utility had informed the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) and is working towards recovering the coal reserves.

“One of the ways we are going to try to recover on this matter is by diverting coal from Medupi coal power station, in Mpumalanga. Secondly, we are in the process of signing 12 new contracts so that we can get a fresh new supply of coal into those affected stations,” he said.

Playing a significant role in national power generation and supplying over 90 percent of South Africa’s population with coal-generated electricity, Eskom has assured consumers that it is managing the threat.

“We do not want to mislead people and create unnecessary panic. At the time, we also do not want to create a sense of comfort. All we can say is that the risk of load shedding is always there, but we are managing it,” said Phasiwe.

Earlier this year, Eskom announced that it was experiencing severe coal shortages at seven of its power stations and has since been battling to recover.