CAPE TOWN, Aug 10 (Reuters) - South African power utility Eskom is to start selling more of its surplus capacity as new plants come on line, its acting chief executive said on Thursday, marking a shift from two years ago when the company had to conserve power because of shortages.
South Africa had regular power cuts in 2015 that hit key industries when demand exceeded capacity, but Eskom's new coal-fired plants Kusile and Medupi have boosted the national electricity grid.
Eskom CEO Johnny Dladla said the company's aging power plants prone to breakdowns had benefited from a better maintenance programme, helping to improve plant availability to 77.3 percent at the end of March from 69.9 percent in 2015.
"In terms of our existing generation sustainability strategy, we aim to achieve 80 percent plant availability, 10 percent planned maintenance and 10 percent unplanned maintenance by 2020,” Dladla said in a statement.
He said Eskom had adopted an "aggressive" plan to improve volume sales by encouraging annual growth of 2.1 percent in local demand and an 8 percent improvement in export sales over the next five years.
Eskom sells its surplus electricity to several southern African countries, including Zimbabwe and Namibia, as part of a regional power pool. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf. Editing by Jane Merriman)