South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility Eskom has issued a warning urging South Africans to reduce their power usage and switch off unnecessary appliances such as swimming pool pumps and geysers as the country’s electricity system is “severely constrained.”
According to Eskom, load shedding may be implemented at “very short notice” due to these renewed constraints that are due to delays in returning units to service and the loss of multiple generation units across the firm’s grid on Monday.
Eskom urges the public to reduce the consumption of electricity as the power system is severely constrained due to the delay in returning units to service and the loss of multiple generation units pic.twitter.com/4RJXcV6xPI
— Eskom Hld SOC Ltd (@Eskom_SA) April 25, 2022
South Africans enjoyed a weekend without load shedding after the utility announced that rotational blackouts were no longer needed and the energy grid was stable on Friday, last week. However now due to breakdowns that occurred over the weekend at the Matimba, Duvha, and Arnot power stations, this may no longer be the case.
According to an announcement shared via Eskom’s official Twitter account, generation units at Arnot, Kendal, Matla and Tutuka power stations have been returned to service. The utility shared that despite this, it is still highly reliant on “healthy” emergency reserves to meet the Monday evening demand.
However, further breakdowns could plunge the republic into another week of load shedding. Eskom says that 4,533MW in capacity has been removed from the grid due to planned maintenance, while another 13,601MW is unavailable due to unplanned breakdowns.
President Ramaphosa says Government is trying to do everything it can to end load shedding
According to an open letter written by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, the load shedding ills currently faced by SA are the result of “policy missteps and the impact of state capture over many years.”
The President continues to say that the country’s fleet of coal-fired power stations is old, with performance continuing to deteriorate across the grid. He writes that, despite warnings from energy experts for nearly two decades, South Africa experienced a delay in upgrading its power stations in time.
On top of this delay in upgrades, newly built stations were ransacked by corruption and state capture, such as the Medupi power station, the first power station built by Eskom in 20 years constructed in 2007, which has been ailing under delays, cost overruns and breakdowns due to design problems linked to allegations of corruption.
Ramaphosa continues that the process of structural reform embarked in 2018 is still underway with a load shedding-free future still in the cards but “changes will take time to bear fruit.”
The President adds that more efforts have been made to connect additional private power generators to the grid, with a few renewable energy projects now adding much-needed electricity to the country’s system and a further 58 more projects in the pipeline currently “under development.”
The President asks South Africans to work with Eskom and its directors in a combined effort to stop load shedding and stabilise the country’s failing energy grid.
“It is difficult and unacceptable for South Africans to endure load shedding. But we are doing everything in our means to ensure that, like state capture, it soon becomes a thing of the past,” Ramaphosa concludes.
South Africa’s Electricity Woes
Further woes caused by widespread load-shedding blackouts are only worsened by the rampant infrastructure and vandalism plaguing South Africa’s largest cities.
According to a Sunday Times report, Johannesburg experiences up to five cable thefts per day, with a recent incident ending in a shootout as the alleged cable thieves were confronted by community members in Eldorado Park who were trying to protect their municipal electricity infrastructure from the culprits.
With more load shedding on the cards now and in the coming winter months when South Africans begin turning on their heaters and curling up indoors, there is no short-term reprieve in sight.
And with no longer-term timeline set, most South Africans will still have to wonder whether or not they will have power when they return to their homes from work.