November 12, 2018 / 8:59 AM / 6 months ago

South Africa's Eskom warns of power cuts due to low coal stockpiles

FILE PHOTO: The logo of state power utility Eskom is seen outside the Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town, South Africa, March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s cash-strapped power utility Eskom said on Monday the risk of nation-wide electricity outages had increased significantly due to a sharp fall in coal stockpiles at five of its power stations.

“The risk of load-shedding is there and its rising,” said Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe.

“In total, we have 11 coal-fired power stations that have less than the required minimum amount of 20 days stockpile. Out of the 11, five of them have less than 10 days of coal stock and that is the challenge.”

He said the power firm was using diesel generators to keep the power grid stable.

In 2015 Eskom, whose total output of 45,000 megawatts accounts for 90 percent of electricity supply in the country, carried out controlled outages — known as load-shedding — as low cash flows and administrative issues affected operations.

The power firm was also forced to cut power supplies for a few days in July due to a strike by some of its workers.

Phasiwe said the main problem behind the latest threat to power supply were the coal power stations in Mpumalanga province, east of Johannesburg, supplied by commodities firm Tegeta Exploration and Resources, which has halted operations.

Heavy rain forecast for coming months would affect coal supplies and quality, Phasiwe said.

“I don’t want to sound dramatic but those open pit (coal) mines almost become like swimming pools when you have heavy rain,” Phasiwe said.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia

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