South Africans have decried the return of load shedding on Tuesday, following 18 days of no power cuts during the festive season.
On Monday, Eskom announced that the first load shedding of the new year would be implemented from January 2 despite the synchronisation of Unit Five of the Kusile Power Station on Sunday.
The embattled power utility has blamed the need to reintroduce power cuts on a setback in its planned maintenance efforts, with three generating units with a potential 2 148MW capacity not coming back online as anticipated.
According to media reports, Eskom also recently experienced the unplanned losses of six generating units with a combined capacity of 3 113MW.
“Unplanned outages are currently at 16 231MW of generating capacity, while the capacity out of service for planned maintenance is 8 451MW,” Eskom said in a statement on Monday.
This news came barely a day after the Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa issued a statement announcing the synchronisation of unit five at the Kusile power station.
On Sunday, when the country was gearing up to usher in the new year, Eskom announced that it had successfully synchronised Unit 5 of the Kusile Power Station Project to the national grid for the first time on December 31 at 17h22.
It was reported that the unit would contribute an additional 800MW to the country’s power system which was not part of Eskom’s grid capacity.
“As part of the generation recovery plan, the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 5 marks another significant milestone of sustainably improving our generation performance.
“This will contribute the much-needed power to the grid... We are encouraged that this achievement of our recovery plan immediately follows the return of the three units that were brought online from end of September 2023, bringing a total of 3 200 MW into the grid, which will further improve the energy availability factor (EAF) and help strengthen South Africa’s electricity capacity,” Eskom group executive Bheki Nxumalo said in a statement.
The minister congratulated the Eskom team adding that the latest developments will help bring stability to the country’s generation capacity.
“Well done to the hard-working men and women at Eskom – Kusile Power Station. The minister is pleased with developments in Eskom’s generation performance following the synchronisation of Kusile Power Station Unit 5. In welcoming these developments the minister has emphasised that more work and efforts will be need continue towards adding more generation capacity to the grid to reduce and ultimately end load shedding,” he said.
According to “Central News”, this development follows on the heels of a proclamation by Ramokgopa in September where he indicated that four units at the Kusile power station in Mpumalanga were predicted to be reincorporated into the grid by end-2023 following a chimney failure which caused these coal-powered units to be off-line since November 2022.
The announcement by Eskom also came after it announced that load shedding would remain suspended for the better part of the festive season.
During a recent media briefing, Ramokgopa said Eskom had been able to suspend load shedding due to the maintenance on its generating units as well as a low demand for electricity.
“It is important that during this period of low demand, we are able to take this opportunity to ensure we accelerate maintenance. In the past, our experience is that when the units have gone out on planned maintenance (and) when they return on average, they continue to perform and remain on load,” the minister said.