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Second round of load shedding hits South Africa since COVID-19

Men walk past electricity pylons as they return from work in Orlando, Soweto township, South Africa March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe SibekoFile photo – REUTERS

A new round of rolling power blackouts hit South Africa on Thursday despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise of no blackouts during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Debt-ridden state-run electricity utility Eskom said rolling blackouts started at 08:00 Thursday morning and would last into the weekend.

The load shedding dealt a heavy blow to the South African economy that has already been battered by COVID-19.

Eskom, which provides more than 95 percent of the electricity consumed in South Africa, attributed the load shedding to the delay in the return to service of two generation units as well as the breakdown of four other units during the night.

More than 2,000MW of capacity have been lost to the grid, according to the utility.

Eskom urged the public to reduce electricity usage to assist the utility in limiting the load shedding requirement.

The provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga seem to suffer the most with respect to power reductions.

South Africa has suffered from load shedding for more than a decade, particularly in recent years.

Load shedding cost the country between 3.5 billion and 7 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

In 2020 there have been 661 hours of outages with 1,383 GWh having been shed, already exceeding 2019’s figure, the council said.

Despite a drop in demand due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Eskom has nevertheless implemented two rounds of load shedding, with the first round in July which lasted about 10 days, as opposed to its targeted three days envisaged in its “winter plan.”

Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter admitted that this was due to its 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