Eskom says load shedding unlikely despite coal supply fall

Eskom says load shedding unlikely despite coal supply fall

JOHANNESBURG – South African utility Eskom said on Thursday rolling power cuts are unlikely despite coal supply possibly falling below a 20-day requirement at its Hendrina power station.

On Thursday investigative news outfit AmaBhungane reported Eskom may be forced into nationwide electricity cuts after a coal mine linked to the Gupta family threatened to halt supply if the power utility refused to pay more money for the coal.

Eskom has been at the heart of allegations of illegal contracts and undue influence in awarding tenders to the Gupta family, who are seen as being close to President Jacob Zuma.

Spokesman Khulu Phasiwe confirmed Eskom had held an emergency meeting last Friday to determine whether strategic coal stockpiles at Hendrina and other stations were sufficient after Tegeta Exploration and Resources threatened to cut supply to Hendrina.

Coal supply at Eskom’s power stations stood at 74 days’ worth in March but had fallen to 25 days’ worth at Hendrina by October and may have fallen below a 20-day requirement since, Phasiwe said.

He told Reuters the company was investigating whether supply at all its 12 power stations complied with regulations requiring at least 20 days’ worth.

The country had regular power cuts between 2008 and 2015, hitting key industries and knocking economic growth as demand exceeded capacity.

Quoting sources, AmaBhungane alleged that Tegeta has been exporting coal from its Optimum Coal Mine while limiting supply to Eskom.

“If it happens that for some reason they are unable to supply us with coal then clearly it means that they would have breached the contract and therefore it becomes a legal matter,” Eskom’s Phasiwe said.

It comes amid several revelations at Parliament’s inquiry into the abuse of state resources at Eskom has seen several former senior staffers accusing the Guptas of interference.

A spokeswoman for Tegeta parent company Oakbay, founded by the Gupta family as its main investment vehicle in South Africa, said the company would likely comment on Friday.

The family agreed in August to sell Tegeta but the sale has not been finalised.

The Guptas are accused of using their links with Zuma to wield influence and win state contracts. Zuma and the family both deny any wrongdoing.

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– Additional reporting by eNCA

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