A shopkeeper waits for customers in his candlelit fast food store during load shedding in Cape Town on April 15, 2015. Photo: Mike Hutchings
A shopkeeper waits for customers in his candlelit fast food store during load shedding in Cape Town on April 15, 2015. Photo: Mike Hutchings

‘SA power crunch is getting worse’

By Reuters Time of article published Apr 16, 2015

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Johannesburg - South African utility Eskom resumed widespread power cuts on Wednesday, leaving millions without electricity for a fourth day in a row, but a government minister ruled out the chances of a total blackout.

Africa's most advanced economy is in the middle of its worst electricity crisis since 2008 and South Africans are subjected to frequent controlled blackouts, which Eskom implements to prevent the grid from collapsing.

South Africa on Tuesday lost a quarter of its power supply in one of its worst power outages in years in both scheduled maintenance and plant breakdowns. Some supply had been restored by Wednesday, but the power outages remained widespread.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said despite the seriousness of the power supply constraints, South Africa was not at risk of facing a total blackout.

“Load shedding at Stage 3 shows the seriousness of the constraints that we face but it is in no way an indication that we are close to a blackout,” Brown told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday.

South Africa's government has said its economic growth forecast for 2015 could halve to 1 percent from 2 percent because of power constraints.

An extended series of rolling power outages in 2008 cost the country billions of rand in lost output.

The utility, which provides 95 percent of the country's power, has an installed capacity of 42 000 MW but its normal capacity is around 32 000 MW because some of its plants are usually under maintenance at any one time.

Eskom said on Tuesday it lost 9 500 MW of electricity due to unplanned outages in addition to the 5 000 MW it had lost earlier due to scheduled maintenance. The utility said it had restored 1 200 MW on Wednesday.

Cash-strapped Eskom faces a funding crunch as it races to bring new power plants online.

Analysts said the power crunch crisis was getting worse.

“The situation has not stabilised, it's getting worse,” said independent energy expert Chris Yelland.

Eskom is scrambling to build new power stations to improve power supply but construction at its large Medupi plant has been beset by delays caused by labour disruption and technical faults.

Workers at Medupi have stayed away from the plant this month, demanding higher pay and better living conditions.

Reuters

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