JOHANNESBURG– South African power utility Eskom says it has put in place measures to address its current challenges resulting from coal stock shortages but dismisses fears of load-shedding.

It said in a statement here Wednesday that the challenge of coal stock levels being below the required target of 20 days at seven of its power stations was not ideal given that the country is heading into the (Southern Hemisphere) winter period which will see higher electricity usage.

Eskom has, however, put measures in place to address the current coal shortages. Eskom is highly cognizant of the significant impact insufficient coal supply would have on its operations and the entire country.

Eskom is currently facing imbalances where several coal-fired power stations, particularly those in the Mpumalanga Province, are affected. However, it is also important to note that at this stage, the level of coal stock days in more than half of the 15 coal-fired power stations in the Eskom generation fleet is maintained above the grid code target of 20, it added.

Coal stock levels are below the required target of 20 days at the Arnot, Tutuka, Majuba, Hendrina, Camden, Kriel and Komati power stations. Although the total current coal stock day levels of 35 days (excluding Medupi and Kusile Power Stations) are within an acceptable range, it is necessary to have all stations at the required stock day levels, Eskom said.

A number of factors, including the historical underinvestment at cost-plus mines due to capital constraints and the undersupply on both coal quality and quantity by the Tegeta mines which are under business rescue, have negatively impacted stock levels and production. Eskom has informed Nersa [National Energy Regulator of South Africa] of the current coal supply challenges and planned remedial actions as per regulatory requirements, said the utility.

Eskom’s recovery plan includes securing additional coal supplies for the affected stations and a further redirection of coal stock is underway to address the imbalance.

Eskom’s interim Group Chief Executive Officer, Phakamani Hadebe, also dismissed media reports of impending load shedding as unfounded. The recent media reports on impending load shedding due to a shortage of coal are unfounded. Eskom has contracted 84% of the coal it requires over the next five years. A recovery plan is in place to address the short-term imbalance of coal and to improve the stock days at the seven stations below minimum. Eskom is working on ways to expedite the coal procurement process at these mines, said Hadebe.

He added that the situation cannot be compared to 2008 when South Africans experienced load shedding. During that period coal production and delivery were severely affected with wet coal being at the centre of the various challenges experienced at that time.

It remains standard practice at Eskom to increase vigilance on all critical processes particularly during the traditionally higher demand winter period in order to manage for the unexpected and to ensure that the lights stay on.