JOHANNESBURG  - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) on Tuesday called on government to make bold interventions to minimise load shedding by the State-owned power utility.

This as Eskom on Monday unexpectedly began cutting off power supply with stage 4 load shedding after six power generating units tripped. The power utility said on Tuesday it will implement stage 3 load shedding and cut up to 3 000MW power supply.

Ronald Chauke, Outa's energy portfolio manager, said entering stage 4 load shedding signals a dire situation for Eskom's energy generation and raises major concerns for the economy, adding that clearly there is a serious problem at Eskom. 

"Eskom’s ageing power plants require urgent attention to keep the lights on and it would appear that, aside from the lack of maintenance over the past years which is catching up with us today, the shortage of skills and expertise to manage, maintain and operate these ageing plants has added to Eskom’s woes," Chauke said. 

Chauke said the situation was extremely damaging for the South African economy and called for urgent intervention, even if this required the importation of international expertise and recalling retired engineers and experts who have the institutional knowledge of these power plants.

"We believe it is time for South Africa to enable and encourage self-generation solutions on a large scale," Chauke said. "This will in turn reduce pressure on Eskom to meet the country’s demands, which it is clearly struggling to do."

On Monday afternoon, the Eskom board convened an urgent meeting with the company's executive management and the minister of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, to discuss ways to deal with load shedding.

The board resolved to institute an urgent review to establish when the new build programme and its fleet of older power stations will be completed, the extent of design and other operational faults, what steps can be implemented to minimize the ever-escalating costs and what can be done to increase output.

- African News Agency (ANA)