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Eskom doubles up on load shedding amid unit failures

Eskom has announced Stage 4 load shedding as the power system struggles to keep up with cold weather-driven demand.

The South African power company said Stage 4 would be in place from 15:00 to 22:00 on September 9. Load shedding will continue into the weekend, it said.

Eskom’s teams are working to return a number of units to service. Unplanned breakdowns have accounted for 11,300 MW of capacity. Another 5,040 MW is offline as a result of planned maintenance.

On September 1, the company had put unplanned breakdowns at 11,665 MW while 4,558 MW of capacity was unavailable because of planned maintenance.

The decision to implement load shedding had been taken to “conserve and replenish emergency reserves”, the company said. It will also maintain the stability of the power system.

Eskom’s teams have returned power at units at the Tutuka, Komati, Hendrina and Camden plants. Two more units, at Matla and Kriel, have broken down.

The company called on the people of South Africa to curb electricity use. This should help reduce the amount of load shedding required.

Ageing and ailing

Stage 2 load shedding has been declared throughout August. On September 1, the company said Stage 2 was in effect from 12:00 to 22:00. The company explained that 10 generating units, at seven power plants, had broken down in the last 48 hours.

The company warned that its “aged generation infrastructure [was] unreliable and volatile”. As such, it warned that constraints would last through the week.

Eskom defines Stage 2 load shedding as cutting 2,000 MW. Stage 4 is 4,000 MW. Under load shedding conditions, customers will typically lose power for around 2.5 hours at a time.

Stage 2 load shedding involves six planned power outages over four days, while Stage 4 involves 12 outages over four days.

Eskom’s major problem is its debt load. As the company revealed in a presentation to parliament, this had reached 488 billion rand ($28.9bn) as of March.