ROLLING blackouts were holding back investments in big projects, South Africa’s biggest power users said, as the state-owned power utility started a fifth consecutive day of blackouts to prevent the grid’s full collapse.

Eskom cut as many as 2 000 megawatts yesterday and on Sunday after reducing supply by double that on Friday and Saturday. One-third of its 41 995MW of installed capacity was out the day reductions began. The company also cut supplies on the last two weekends of November to build up reserves for the week.

Members of the Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG) of Southern Africa, which include units of ArcelorMittal and Anglo American, were coping because they had been lowering demand since 2008, spokesman Shaun Nel said.

“Production capacity hasn’t returned to levels since the economic decline in 2008,” Nel said. “We’re getting no new investment and those… projects that were planned have been put on hold.”

The EIUG’s members consumed about 44 percent of electricity consumed, it said.

Potential economic growth had been reduced to 2.5 percent a year since 2007 from 4 percent annually, Mike Schussler at Economists.co.za said.

“This is the major retail season in South Africa, with the bulk of activity taking place at the weekends,” he said. “The economy is bleeding and jobs are being put at risk.”

The retail, automotive and manufacturing industry had been hardest hit.

Blackouts had reduced economic growth by as much as 0.3 percentage point this year, Schussler said – Bloomberg