Blackouts blamed on change in coal suppliers

Blackouts blamed on change in coal suppliers

ESKOM’s decision to terminate a multimillion-rand contract with a public company to transport coal to power stations is one of the reasons South Africa’s cities and towns have been left in the dark.

The revelation comes in a week in which power cuts hit thousands of homes and businesses across the country, and amid warnings that such cuts are set to continue over the next few weeks.

On Friday, Afgri Logistics, a JSE- listed company which transported coal to Eskom power stations, confirmed that the parastatal had terminated its contract in December.

In its place Eskom hired several smaller companies to transport the coal, but these were unable to cope, forcing Eskom to ask the company to assist it again two weeks ago.

A spokesman for Afgri, who asked not to be named, said that prior to the cancellation of the contract the company had moved as much as 500000 tons of coal each month, using 200 trucks daily.

An Afgri insider said he had predicted the power shortages two weeks ago when the company was approached to assist with coal delivery.

It did not have trucks available at the time and could not help Eskom, he said.

”I knew it would come to this. Eskom was just being shortsighted because in the past few weeks they’ve been unable to move adequate amounts of coal to their stations.”

An energy analyst, Andrew Kenny, said this may have been one of the reasons for the widespread power cuts suffered this week.

”This comes as no surprise. It’s absolutely shocking considering that 92% of our electricity is supplied by coal.

”Some power stations receive coal via conveyor belts but quite a few still receive them via road transport,” Kenny said.

But Eskom spokesman Tony Stott insisted that there were ”absolutely no problems” with coal supply.

”It is not the issue. A number of the units [at five power stations] had to be shut down due to technical problems while maintenance was being carried out at six stations.

”If all were operational then we would have been able to accommodate the surge [in demand],” he said.

It has also emerged that the parastatal has an energy reserve of only 8% of supply ”” well short of the international norm of 18%.

Stott, meanwhile, said the problems at the affected power stations had now been solved and that the company was not expecting any further cuts in power.


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