Unplanned breakdowns at some power plants, along with planned maintenance, have constrained the system leading to Stage 6 load shedding, said Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
Ramokgopa briefed the media on Tuesday about the state of the electricity grid, where he also noted stage 6 was “dangerous” for the country’s economy.
This comes as the power utility announced, on Monday, the loss of a further two generation units, and that Lethabo and Matla power stations would need to be shut down for urgent repairs.
“Stage 6 is largely on account of ramping up planned maintenance and unplanned capacity loss,” said Ramokgopa.
The ramp-up had coincided with a spike in unplanned breakdowns which breached 17 290MW yesterday.
Eskom generation head Bheki Nxumalo said they were confident that load shedding stages would be reduced by the end of this week.
"A generating unit each at Kriel and Medupi power stations were taken offline for repairs. The delay in returning to service a generating unit each at Hendrina and Tutuka power stations also contributed to the capacity constraints," he said.
Nxumalo said the three Kusile units were expected to return in phases with Unit 5 expected back in November. More units were expected to also be returned at the Tutuka Power Station.
According to Ramokgopa, the deterioration of generating capacity was because in the past, the country did not stick to planned maintenance due to limited funding.
“We have not been sticking to philosophy maintenance and that has to do with the fact that Eskom’s balance sheet was severely compromised. There were little resources to invest on the maintenance and the units have been exploited without the necessary maintenance and that has caught up with us,” he said.
Energy activist Peter Becker said Unit 1 at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was currently offline and has not been generating power for eight months.
“Eskom plans to take Unit 2 offline later this year, also for a long outage aimed at extending its operating life beyond 2025. One easy way to avoid one stage of load shedding would be to postpone the outage planned for Unit 2. The 920MW supplied by a unit of Koeberg is valuable now, but after 2025, with tens of thousands of MW of new capacity planned, 920 MW will be insignificant. It makes no sense that Eskom is planning to take Unit 2 offline now, when it is needed the most, in order to extend its life past 2025, when it will not be needed at all,” said Becker.