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New round of load shedding plunges South Africa into darkness

A new round of rolling power blackouts plunged South Africa into darkness on Tuesday as the country was struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite a drop in demand due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Eskom has implemented three rounds of load shedding since the COVID-19 outbreak in early March.

State-run Eskom said it implemented the latest round of load shedding due to the severe constraints in the power generation system.

The breakdown of four electricity generating units overnight and on Tuesday morning at four power stations as well as a delay in the expected return to service of another unit under maintenance had resulted in the power system being constrained, said Eskom, which provides more than 95 percent of the electricity consumed in South Africa.

“Any further deterioration in the generation performance may, therefore, necessitate the escalation of load shedding at short notice,” Eskom said.

As the aged generation infrastructure is unreliable and volatile, this constrained power system is expected to persist for the rest of the week, particularly as the cold front hits, said the utility which has been staggering under heavy debt, poor management and alleged corruption.

“We urge the people of South Africa to help reduce electricity usage in order to assist Eskom to reduce the instance of load shedding and keep the lights on,” the utility said.

Eskom says it implements load shedding as a last resort to prevent the national grid from a total collapse.

Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter admitted that load shedding was due to Eskom’s unreliable and unpredictable generation fleet caused by the fact that major maintenance has been deferred over the past years.

Load shedding is likely to continue until September 2021, he said.