Eskom spent a whopping R10 billion on diesel last year to help keep the lights on. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg -

More traffic chaos was expected in Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon as a result of the incessant rain, and the load shedding announced early on Thursday morning.

Already several accidents have occurred in Joburg and Ekurhuleni, with increased traffic predicted as traffic lights will be off due to load shedding.

Since Eskom’s announcement on Thursday morning that the national power grid was under severe pressure and it was thereby calling a state of emergency, Ekurhuleni has already experienced load shedding.

Power was cut off from the Germiston CBD and surrounding areas on Thursday morning. Parts of Edenvale, Kempton Park, Bredell, Rietfontein, Benoni, Tembisa, Olifantsfontein and Brakpan North have also been affected.

Gauteng traffic police spokesman Obed Sibasa said traffic lights were affected in Rosebank, Bryanston, Isandovale and Garsfontein.

“Quite a number of traffic lights will be affected because of load shedding across the city. The rule is simple: Where you come across lights not working, treat that intersection as a four-way stop,” Sibasa said.

Load shedding across the country began at 9am on Thursday.

Eskom’s declaration of a national state of emergency was the fourth in recent months.

The utility’s spokesman Andrew Etzinger said that by 4am on Thursday the utility realised the pressure on power supply was “certainly serious”, and saw no way out but to declare an emergency.

“The seven days of continuous rain has left our coal stocks wet in our Mpumalanga stations.

“Eskom has a certain level of resistance, but this rain has been abnormal and over this period, wet coal has been affecting supply,” he said.

Consumers can look on Eskom’s website, and those serviced directly by municipalities must look on those websites to access load-shedding schedules.

Eskom said they anticipated that they would be load shedding until 10pm on Thursday night.

City Power spokesman Louis Pieterse confirmed that several suburbs across Joburg were currently experiencing power outages.

These were Roosevelt Park, Emmarentia, Linden, Northcliff and Fairland.

This was due to a trip at one of the power stations and City Power was waiting for directions from Eskom on load shedding.

Meanwhile in the Western Cape areas first disconnected by the City of Cape Town in response include large parts of the southern suburbs from Kenilworth to Bergvliet and Muizenberg. Power was also down in Gugulethu and Somerset West.

eThekwini Municipality spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, confirmed that several suburbs across Durban were experiencing power outages by mid-morning.

Areas first disconnected by the city in response include Ballito, Westville, Berea, Windermere, Umlazi, Bellair and the Durban CBD.

Businesses across the city were plunged into darkness and the Durban High Court was closed for the day.

Just two weeks ago, the power utility called on its 138 key industrial customers to cut 10 percent of power usage. On Thursday morning, Etzinger reiterated that call.

Commercial customers such as shopping centres were asked to switch off geysers immediately and adjust air conditioning.

Residential customers were asked to switch off geysers, air cons and any non-essentials.

“We’ve asked our industrial customers to reduce their usage, but it won’t be enough. We’re calling on all South Africans to reduce their usage,” Etzinger said.

Etzinger urged consumers to look up the load-shedding schedules on their website to check the schedules for their areas.

The website, which had not been updated by the time of publishing, stated there was “no load shedding”, but Etzinger said he was certain there was no other way to ease the pressure on the grid.

He explained that incessant rain had affected coal supply.

“The open-cast mines which supply our power stations with coal are exposed to the elements and suppliers are battling with providing dry coal. Secondly, our coal transportation conveyors are also exposed to the elements and that moisture affects the coal,” he said.

Wet coal does not burn as well as dry coal, leading to less power on the grid. “I must say, there are coal stockpiles at our power stations, but after the incessant rain, those supplies have been depleted.”

DA public enterprise spokeswoman Natasha Michael said the party would be writing to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, to request that he urgently grant a debate of public importance on the Eskom power crisis.

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