Johannesburg – South Africa’s state utility Eskom says it will implement more blackouts on Monday and Tuesday as it struggles with capacity shortages.
Eskom said in Johannesburg that the blackouts would be at a level which calls for 4,000 megawatts to be cut from the national grid on a rotational basis.
Eskom supplies more than 90 per cent of the power in South Africa but has suffered repeated faults at its coal-fired power station fleet, low water levels at hydro-power plants and diesel shortages.
The situation worsened on Saturday after Eskom lost its usual electricity imports from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric system in Mozambique, which contributes more than 1,000 megawatts to the South African grid.
Mozambique was hit by a powerful cyclone which knocked out communications and electricity pylons last week.
Eskom, which is currently labouring under a 420 billion rand ($29 billion) debt, resorted to power cut last Thursday.
The rand currency weakened in early trade on Monday as the power cuts weighed on market sentiment.
“It is having a huge impact on households, individual people, hospitals and on the economy as well; so it’s a very worrying situation,” President Cyril Ramaphosa told eNCA television on Monday, referring to the power shortage.
Ramaphosa’s government has promised to inject 23 billion rand a year over the next three years to shore up Eskom’s balance sheet, although there are signs that more money could be needed.
The Ministry of Public Enterprises, which oversees Eskom, said in a statement late on Sunday that Eskom would be assisted to fast-track the procurement of essential goods and services required to rehabilitate generating units.
“We agree with South Africans that the continuation of frequent load shedding, stage-four load shedding in particular, is unacceptable and disruptive to our economy,” Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said.
A team of experts has been appointed to assess Eskom’s technical challenges and the cabinet said last week a preliminary report should be produced within a month.
Looking to supplement its ageing power plants that are between 37 years and 50 years old, Eskom is developing the Kusile and Medupi projects, but both are years behind schedule and tens of billions of rands over budget.
The few units at Kusile and Medupi which are online perform unreliably.