15 March 2019

South Africa: How Historical Use of Poor-Quality Coal Has Affected Eskom's Efficiency and Brought Us Load Shedding


The quality of coal is essential for the adequate functioning of an electrical generation unit. In South Africa, some of it is mixed with sand and rocks.

On Thursday, Eskom released a communique announcing the implementation of Stage 1 load shedding, due to "a shortage of capacity". This comes after Eskom told Daily Maverick on Monday, 11 March 2019, that even though it was not predicting any load shedding for the rest of the week, it was a possibility, as the "system is tight".

Earlier this the week, the Zondo commission heard how in 2015, Tegeta, a Gupta-owned company, supplied "sub-standard" coal to Eskom. This was at the insistence of then acting chief executive Matshela Koko.

However, according to energy expert Chris Yelland, the issue is nothing new. Yelland told Daily Maverick that "the issue around coal quality has been ongoing for years. Coal quality is not consistent across the country".

He said that previously Eskom had coal mines that were "tied" (coal mines that are near power stations). This made it easy to monitor the quality of coal being supplied.

However, over the years these "tied" mines had struggled to keep up with Eskom's demand for coal, resulting in...

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