Load shedding continues as Eskom struggles to stabilise grid

2019-12-12 13:31

Rolling blackouts are set to continue because some generating units are still down, after a week of heavy rains across parts of the country caused flooding, aggravating problems at struggling power utility Eskom.

On Monday Eskom announced an unprecedented level 6 of blackouts, which disrupted the supply of electricity to businesses and households across South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who cut short a visit to Egypt to deal with the crisis, said on Wednesday Eskom would work to stabilise the power grid by the end of March.

In addition to heavy rains, he also blamed suspected sabotage at power stations, which resulted in the loss of 2 000 megawatts (MW) during the past week’s outages. He ordered investigation.

The power utility will cut up to 2 000 MW of power from the national grid on a rotational basis from 9am to 11pm, Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said.

“While good progress has been made with additional units being returned to service, stage 2 load shedding will be implemented ... as breakdowns are still above 9 500 MW,” Eskom said.

The state-owned power utility produces more than 90% of South Africa’s electricity but has struggled to keep up with demand, leading to nationwide power cuts that have deterred investment and caused a major headache for Ramaphosa, who came to power nearly two years ago vowing to reverse years of mismanagement and economic stagnation.

Eskom will work to stabilise the power grid by the end of March, Ramaphosa said on Wednesday. He said suspected sabotage at power stations contributed to the loss of 2 000 MW this week.

“There are certain people within the system who take it upon themselves to go and switch off certain instruments that finally lead to us losing so many megawatts,” the president said without elaborating.

The public enterprises and energy ministers would present proposals to cabinet on Friday aimed at closing South Africa’s energy gap, Ramaphosa said.

They include fast-tracking applications of businesses seeking to generate their own electricity. “What they don’t use they will be able to put or sell into the grid,” he said.

Eskom said it planned to reduce national grid supplies by 2 000 MW on Wednesday, down from 6 000 MW on Monday. But the company said the risk of continued rolling blackouts remained high for the rest of the week. – Reuters

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January 26 2020