Eskom revs up load shedding before festive season

Eskom has yet again plunged the country into darkness. Picture: File

Eskom has yet again plunged the country into darkness. Picture: File

Published Nov 29, 2023


Eskom has yet again plunged the country into darkness, citing insufficient generation capacity.

This has left a number of South African worried about the possibility that Eskom is getting worse instead of better.

The power utility said there is a need to replenish emergency reserves. Yesterday morning Stage 5 load shedding was implemented and around 8pm, Stage 6 kicked in, until Saturday.

This was “due to insufficient generation capacity and the need to further replenish emergency reserves”, said Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena.

“Eskom will closely monitor the power system and communicate any changes to load shedding should it be required.”

Since last week, the country has been exposed to higher load shedding stages.

On Monday, the power utility said it had managed to replenish emergency reserves over the weekend to levels it was comfortable with at some of its power stations, enabling it to move load shedding to lower stages. However, a day later, it made a U-turn.

Then the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, said that units at Matla, Arnot, Tutuka and Kriel power stations had returned to service.

He said they had replenished their emergency reserves and some of the units had come back, and what was also retained was Kriel unit number three.

At this rate, South Africa a dark festive season, despite Ramokgopa saying power cuts will be less during that time as companies are expected to close for holidays.

Speaking in an interview on 702 yesterday, Professor Sampson Mamphweli, head of the Department of Science and Innovation’s Energy Secretariat at the South African National Energy Development Institute, said the power utility’s systems are not reliant and their maintenance programmes were not yielding any results.

“I’m confused – Eskom went to Stage 6 power cuts last week to replenish emergency reserves,” said James Bernstein, an economist on his X page. “They’re doing the same this week. Are these really emergency reserves? Also, South Africa has 5GW renewables, so Eskom is just getting worse.”

He added that Eskom was slowly collapsing the South African economy.

ATM president Vuyo Zungula said once power stations were maintained and worked optimally, load shedding would be a thing of the past.

“The problem lies in maintenance … you find a power station with six units, but only two are working,” Zungula said.

Dr Mimmy Gondwe, DA shadow minister of public enterprises, said the heightened levels of load shedding also coincide or correspond with the decline in the use of Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs).

“As a case in point, the use of OCGTs declined by 50%, from 14 OCGTs on November 22 to 7 OCGTs on November 25. It’s therefore imperative for Eskom to provide some much needed clarity on whether it has run out of diesel, or the funds to procure diesel to power OCGTs.

“The DA calls on Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom to reassure South Africans and urgently provide a status update on whether Eskom’s diesel reserves and budget remain intact and have not run out or been depleted, as South Africans need to celebrate the festive season in the absence of this heightened and incessant load shedding that we are now currently being subjected to,” she said.

Eskom’s Mokwena was asked whether the allegations that the power utility had run out of diesel or the funds to procure diesel to power OCGTs were true or not, but did not respond by publication deadline.

The Star