Eskom sheds a little light on operational performance

The power utility has provided some but not all of the technical information requested in OUTA’s PAIA application

07/09/2020 15:28:27

Eskom sheds a little light on operational performance

Service delivery includes providing customers with essential information. OUTA has been calling on Eskom to make the utility's power system performance information publicly available and in a user-friendly form so South Africans can monitor the state-owned entity’s performance.

Five months after OUTA asked for a list of power system performance information on the state of the Eskom to be made public, the utility has finally made a limited amount available to the public.

“OUTA has spent months trying to get this information. Eskom initially delayed responding, then refused our request. OUTA appealed through Eskom’s internal processes, but the appeal was refused,” says Liz McDaid, OUTA’s Portfolio Manager for Energy. “We reserve the right to go to court if necessary, as the public deserves to know what is happening. OUTA believes that good governance includes transparency.”

On 3 April, OUTA filed an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) with Eskom, asking for a list of specified power system performance information to be made available to the public. A PAIA request should be complied with within 30 days.

The information requested included hourly details on energy produced by each power station, details of availability, planned maintenance, unplanned breakdowns, and emissions.

“Although this is a good start, the information now provided is still far from what is provided by Eskom’s peers around the world”, says Chris Yelland, OUTA’s energy advisor

South Africa has had weeks of renewed load shedding and, with power station managers finally being held accountable for power station failures, this power system performance information is important for the electricity customers, business, mining, industry and the general public to know. In addition, the public cannot simply be expected to watch idly as billions of rand in taxpayer money go to bailing out Eskom over the next decade.

Some of the information requested by OUTA includes power station emissions data. “People affected by pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions have the right to this information day by day in near real-time, as it impacts directly on their health,” says McDaid.

“The formal PAIA application for comprehensive real-time Eskom operational information submitted by OUTA a few months ago is finally bearing fruit and forcing Eskom to relent and provide at least some of the information requested,” says Yelland. “Eskom needs to engage with customers and analysts to establish what customers want and need. This is something that has been significantly lacking – customer focus.”

A significant mindset change is required from that of a “take it or leave it” monopoly to a customer-focused service organisation. But having said that, Eskom’s new CEO and advisors on this matter are thanked for demonstrating a more enlightened approach to transparency and access to information.



What’s in the data?

Here is Yelland’s preliminary assessment of the Eskom data:

1 OUTA asked for an hourly data feed so we could produce our own dashboards on what customers want and need to know. Eskom has presented its own dashboard based on what Eskom wants the public to see.
2. OUTA asked for granularity at the power system level, technology level and power station level, and in due course at the generator unit level at each power station. The information is provided only at the system level, with limited technology granularity and no power station granularity.
3. No zoom, pan, trend analysis or data download facilities are provided.
4. No energy availability factor (EAF) information is provided at system, technology, power station or generator unit level (although EAF at system level can be derived after some calculations).
5. No primary energy use, water use, primary energy stockpile level, diesel tank level or water level information is provided.
6. No real-time environmental information on sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides or particulate matter emissions is provided – only historical monthly reports.
7. Several parameters have limited time resolution (for example, daily, not hourly as requested).
8. There are no correlation analysis facilities, for example, allowing one dataset to be placed alongside another dataset with the same timeframe for trend and correlation analysis and comparisons.
9. The way data is presented is rudimentary, and not in line with current IT best practice seen in good, commercially available dashboard software systems. Eskom could have leapfrogged to a really great information system dashboard based on what is standard practice today.

It is OUTA’s view that Eskom should focus on providing a comprehensive, automated, hourly, raw data feed (to which various parameters can be enabled or disabled for public, media and analyst access), and then contract with a world-class provider of power system performance monitoring dashboards to provide a state-of-the-art power system performance information system portal.
 
The benefits of increased transparency, benchmarking, public and peer pressure would be an enormous driver for positive performance improvement and attitude change within Eskom.


Further information

OUTA’s statement in April on the PAIA application is here.
The list of records which OUTA has asked Eskom for is here.
Eskom has published the information here

 

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.