South Africa will experience power cuts for a third day on Friday but is unlikely to be affected through the weekend as more generating units return to service, Eskom acting chief executive Jabu Mabuza said.
Eskom has since Wednesday been forced to impose power cuts for the first time in around seven months, after a number of its generating units broke down.
The power cuts show the challenge facing President Cyril Ramaphosa in rescuing the power utility, which has been beset by financial and technical problems, and putting further pressure on the economy.
Eskom cut 2000 megawatts of power from 9am until 11pm on Thursday.
Mabuza said the utility will cut 1000 megawatts of power from the grid on Friday, and thereafter the utility did not anticipate further power cuts.
“The system remains constrained and vulnerable,” Mabuza told journalists.
“However, some generating units have already returned to service and we are expecting more units to return to service over the next few days, which lessens the probability of load shedding towards the weekend.”
Mabuza said the decision was necessary to protect the grid from total collapse after unplanned outages.
“Our objective is not to implement load shedding. If we have to as a matter of last resort in order to protect the integrity of the system, we aim to do so at minimal levels, in the shortest duration possible,” he said.
Mabuza also apologised to the nation, especially matriculants who are writing exams and businesses, for the negative impact caused by the unexpected outages.
Debilitating power cuts in February and March pushed first-quarter economic growth into contraction and raised the likelihood of South Africa losing an investment-grade rating.
Moody’s is the last of the big three credit rating agencies to have an investment grade rating on South Africa and is due to deliver its latest credit review on November 1.
The power cuts also affected supplies to Zimbabwe, where Eskom exports up to 400 megawatts daily, the country’s electricity utility ZESA Holdings said in a notice on Thursday.
Power cuts are a daily occurrence in Zimbabwe but Eskom’s supply problems were compounding the situation.
Eskom produces more than 90% of South Africa's electricity but has been hobbled by technical faults at its fleet of mainly coal-fired power stations.
It is also grappling with a debt pile which stood at around R440 billion rand as of March.
Ramaphosa has pledged R59 billion of support for Eskom over the next two years, on top of R230 billion in bailouts spread over the next 10 years.
Officials say its operational losses mean Eskom will also have to take other measures to make it financially sustainable.
Natasha Mazzone, the DA’s shadow minister of public enterprises, said the government’s “mismanagement” of Eskom was to blame for the power cuts.
Cabinet on Thursday approved the promulgation of the long-delayed plan for electricity generation until 2030.
The Integrated Resource Plan will replace a previous blueprint not updated for almost a decade, and deals with planned electricity generation and energy mix.
“The plan proposes nine interventions to ensure the country responds to the energy needs for the next decade,” said Cabinet without elaborating.
The interventions consider energy demand and supply as well as international obligations for South Africa to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, Cabinet added. The government will disclose more details at a media briefing on Friday.
- Additional reporting by News24