Photo: Dean Hutton
Photo: Dean Hutton

Wednesday begins with power cuts

By Paul Burkhardt And Renee Bonorchis Time of article published Apr 15, 2015

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Johannesburg - Eskom will implement Stage 2 load shedding from 6am until 10pm on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, South Africa’s state-owned power utility cut 4 000 megawatts from the grid - its biggest reduction since February as labour unrest stunted construction at a new plant.

The power company increased rolling blackouts to Stage 3 from 6pm to 10pm on Tuesday night. Eskom conducted Stage 2 cuts of 2 000 megawatts earlier on Tuesday for a third straight day, the longest stretch in two months. Construction of the Medupi power plant saw further delays after labour unrest.

Eskom is rationing supply because units that underwent maintenance over the weekend haven’t come back online and the utility is struggling to meet demand after years of underinvestment. The cuts force businesses to close at peak times and cause traffic snarls across cities. The blackouts also come just as temperatures are falling and autumn sets in.

The building site for Eskom’s coal-fired Medupi plant, which will be the biggest in Africa when completed, has been closed due to labour unrest after workers were fired for participating in an illegal strike.

The utility met with unions late on Monday and agreed to a resolution that the 1 700 dismissed workers should be reinstated, Khulu Phasiwe, an Eskom spokesman, said by phone. While workers are expected to resume work on Wednesday, their grievances with contractors remain, he said.

Supply cuts

Murray & Roberts Holdings Ltd, which is among the contractors building the 4 764-megawatt plant for Eskom, has no “definite clarity as to when the site will be re-opened”, spokesman Ed Jardim said earlier in an emailed response to questions.

The first of Medupi’s six units, which Eskom connected to the grid earlier this year, is planned to reach full capacity of 800 megawatts by June.

The utility is struggling to plug a R225 billion funding gap required to build new plants and maintain existing ones. Supply to 20 municipalities that are home to about 3.8 million people may be cut from June because the districts owe Eskom R3.68 billion, the company said on April 10.

The World Bank is monitoring closely the electricity crisis in Africa’s second-biggest economy, the lender said on Monday.

The power shortage “is of great concern”, Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, told reporters via video link from Washington. “We hope bringing in the power plants into the grid will bring about some relief.”

* With assistance from Amogelang Mbatha and Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu in Johannesburg and additional reporting by IOL


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