Eskom used 27 times more diesel in the first 5 months of 2022 than in 'whole 2016/2017 financial year'

02 July 2022 - 15:38
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Eskom implemented load-shedding for 50 days from 1 January 2022 to 2 June 2022 Picture: ZIPHOZONKE LUSHABA
Eskom implemented load-shedding for 50 days from 1 January 2022 to 2 June 2022 Picture: ZIPHOZONKE LUSHABA

Eskom burnt 571,295,617 litres of diesel in the first five months of this year at a cost of R6.4bn.

Replying to written questions by GOOD MP Brett Herron, minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan said 273-million litres were consumed at Eskom’s Ankerlig and Gourikwa open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) between January and May.

According to Gordhan, this was at a cost of about R3.84bn.

“Eskom used 27 times the amount of diesel in the first five months this year than it used in the whole 2016/2017 financial year, at the height of state capture,” said GOOD.

Herron said the staggering number excludes Friday’s revelation by Eskom CEO André de Ruyter that the power utility spent another R1.54bn on diesel in June alone.

“If you add that to the R3.84bn Gordhan said had been spent in the first five months of the year, it means Eskom burnt R5.3bn worth of diesel in the first half of the year.

“Two years ago, Gordhan revealed that the power utility consumed 10 million litres of diesel in 2016/2017 to keep its open-cycle gas turbines running. The cost of diesel to the country was R340m in the 2016/2017 financial year and R320m in 2017/2018. To put these numbers in perspective, that’s R320-R340m five and six years ago compared to R5.3bn in the first six months of this year,” he said.

At a media briefing on Friday, De Ruyter said overspending on diesel was partly due to Eskom having to consume more of the fuel than expected to avoid load-shedding, but also due to high global crude prices.

Gordhan said Eskom implemented load-shedding for 50 days from January 1 to June 2.

“Five days were at stage 1, 35 days were at stage 2, four days were at stage 3 and six days were at stage 4,” he said.

Herron said Eskom’s dependence on burning diesel was laid bare at Friday’s briefing by its executives, with its ability to procure enough diesel stock evidently regarded among its key performance indicators.

He said the production of renewable energy in SA must be accelerated.

Meanwhile, Cape Town is relying on its Steenbras hydroelectric plant to feed additional power into the grid to “shield” businesses and residents from the full impact of stage 6 power cuts.

On Friday, the 180-megawatt pumped storage scheme reduced load-shedding from stage 6 to stage 4.

“We consider load-shedding above stage 4 to be an acute socioeconomic emergency that requires far-reaching, harm-preventing interventions,” mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said last week.

“At levels of load-shedding above stage 4, critical infrastructure — including electricity, water, sanitation, and communications assets — is put at even more serious risk than usual. These facilities and equipment are simply not designed to be switched off and on with such regularity, nor do they contain batteries that are able to provide power for upwards of 10 hours per day. Long periods of downtime also leave this infrastructure more vulnerable to theft and vandalism, putting severe strain on our law enforcement resources.”

Load-shedding ramped up to stage 6 is also affecting water and sanitation infrastructure such as sewage pump stations and wastewater treatment plants, which all require electricity to function.

Cape Town’s water and sanitation directorate has taken various measures to navigate the challenges and keep the system functioning during rotational power cuts.

Permanent generators have been fitted at wastewater treatment plants — 85 larger priority water and sewer pump stations were fitted with permanent generators “as a measure to increase the resilience of water and sanitation supply systems”, the city said this week.

Smaller sewer pump stations at risk of overflowing when the power goes have been fitted with early warning telemetric alarm systems, alerting maintenance staff who can intervene to prevent or reduce overflows by using mobile generators to power the pumps. 

“However, with severe load-shedding [large areas without power], it is not logistically possible to prevent overflows entirely, in which case the operational teams do their utmost to contain and clean up such flows.

“Most of the city’s water supply is gravity-fed from higher-lying dams. Water treatment plants and critical pumping stations are equipped with standby generators to ensure clean drinking water can continue being provided during load-shedding.

“Some higher-lying areas may experience low pressure or supply disruptions in the event of a power outage affecting the local pump station,” the city warned.

Water is purified at 12 treatment plants across the city which each has an on-site laboratory to test drinking water every two hours, daily. Water flows through a 10,800km network of pumps, reservoirs and pipelines to get to taps in the city.

Various infrastructure and control system upgrades were in the pipeline, the city added.

“In addition, should recreational water bodies or beaches be detrimentally impacted by such sewage spills, the city takes steps to close the water body and alert users about possible health risks by erecting signage and other appropriate communication. Residents are however urged to remain proactively cautious and take steps to avoid entering potentially contaminated water bodies until the extended load-shedding period is over.”

“Load-shedding affects residents and businesses alike. As a city, we need to ensure that our water and sanitation services continue to operate as optimally as possible and the impact on the environment is prevented or reduced to a minimum as far as possible,” said Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for water and sanitation.


Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.