South Africa’s power cuts to continue as Eskom battles shortages

Whatapp News

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s state utility Eskom said it would continue making power cuts this week as it struggles with capacity shortages that threaten to stymie efforts to haul the economy out of a protracted slump before national elections in May.

Eskom supplies more than 90 percent of the power in Africa’s most industrialised economy 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 also labouring under a 420 billion rand ($29 billion) debt mountain, said late on Sunday it would continue to implement rolling blackouts on Monday and Tuesday at a level which calls for 4,000 megawatts to be cut from the national grid on a rotational basis.

The rand currency weakened in early trade on Monday as the power cuts weighed on market sentiment.

“It’s 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 and repair generating units at local power stations.

“We agree with South Africans that the continuation of frequent load shedding, and in particular stage-four load shedding, 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 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.

($1 = 14.4239 rand) (Reuters)

Whatapp News