Johannesburg - Eskom lifted its power emergency in South Africa after the first rolling power blackouts in six years yesterday shut shops and factories and delayed flights in the continent’s biggest economy.

Power was restored to all areas at 10 p.m. local time yesterday, the Johannesburg-based state-owned utility said in a statement on Facebook. Scheduled electricity cuts may still occur if the need arises, it said.

Eskom, which produces 95 percent of the nation’s electricity, declared an emergency yesterday after heavy rains disrupted its coal supply used to generate more than 80 percent of power.

The blackouts shut most shops and restaurants at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa’s most-visited tourist attraction, including those owned by Exclusive Books and Mugg & Bean.

Johannesburg’s main international airport was forced to use backup generators, disrupting flights.

“If we are looking at power constraints of about a day or two, then our losses would in the lower billions, but if you’re looking at power constraints of a week or more, it’s going to escalate very fast,” Neren Rau, chief executive officer of the Johannesburg-based South African Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said in a phone interview.

The outages may cut gross domestic product by about 0.2 percentage point a day, according to Peter Attard Montalto, an economist at Nomura International in London.


‘Very Disruptive’


Eskom is currently at stage two of rolling blackouts, which allows for as many as 2,000 megawatts of the national electricity load to be shed, according to the utility’s website.

In stage three, as many as 4,000 megawatts of the nation’s installed capacity of 42,500 megawatts can be cut.

A megawatt is enough capacity to power about 2,000 average European homes.

“The outlook for South Africa’s power system has considerably improved today,” Eskom spokesman, Andrew Etzinger, said on state-owned broadcaster SAfm.

No blackouts have been scheduled for today, he said.

Consol, Africa’s largest glass manufacturer that’s owned by Brait, halted production at one of its plants in Nigel, east of Johannesburg, for four hours yesterday because of the blackout, chief executive Mike Arnold said in a phone interview.

“It’s very disruptive, if you are down for four hours, you are effectively out for at least eight,” he said.

The rand fell 0.2 percent to 10.6210 against the dollar as of 8:13 a.m. in Johannesburg, extending its decline this year to 1.2 percent. - Bloomberg News