Another day, another load shedding headline. What’s new? For one, the country is currently in the clutches of stage 5 load shedding. For another, Eskom can’t afford to replenish diesel stocks at its Gourikwa and Ankerlig power stations. Diesel is essential to keep the stations’ open-cycle gas turbines turning. The absence of diesel leaves the country open to more severe load shedding over the coming weeks and months.
Eskom first revealed its desperation for diesel on Friday, with Pravin Gordhan later holding a meeting between himself and the utility’s board of directors to discuss “serious concerns” surrounding the power utility.
“The DPE is urgently working with [the] national treasury and Eskom for it to find the money to buy supplies of diesel,” the department said. The government suggested it would be “looking for savings” in Eskom’s existing funds to solve the issue. Which feels… counterintuitive.
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So far, the state power supplier has spent over double its yearly diesel budget, recently crossing the R11 billion mark. Eskom has failed to order more diesel due to its increasingly overrun budget.
Chris Yelland, an energy analyst, spoke with a company spokesperson who explained that if the energy supplier was unable to procure the funds, its diesel-powered emergency plants would be online until 2023. It’s a risk since the diesel-powered stations keep the country out of the deeper reaches of load shedding, but it’s one the supplier may be forced to take. Should no knight in shining armour step in, those stations may only return to operation in April next year.
This scenario would probably not be great for South Africa. There’s a chance that Eskom will be bailed out before April. Don’t hold your breath.