South Africa

POWER FAILURE

‘We do apologise again,’ says Eskom as South Africans grapple with Stage 4 load shedding – and a warning of Stage 6

Car headlights are the only sign of illumination on the main street of the Masiphumelele shack settlement in Cape Town during load shedding on 18 March 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

Stage 4 load shedding was implemented on Wednesday morning to prevent Eskom’s diesel and pump storage dam supplies from reaching ‘critically low levels’. Should it run out of diesel and water supplies, South Africans could face Stage 6 blackouts, the power utility warned.

Due to further failures of generation units, Eskom announced – “regrettably, and with a great deal of disappointment” – that load shedding would intensify from Stage 2 to 4 on Wednesday. This was to preserve diesel and water supplies at the open cycle gas turbines and pump storage power stations in order to prevent higher stages of load shedding.

This week, South Africans saw the resurgence of power cuts when Eskom announced the implementation of Stage 2 load shedding on Monday, citing multiple generating unit failures. 

On Wednesday morning, Eskom announced that Stage 4 would be implemented from 9am and continue until 5am on Friday. Thereafter, load shedding will be lowered to Stage 2 until 5am on Monday, 14 March. 

“We do apologise again for the very difficult situation we are placing the people of South Africa in, and for the negative impact on the economy. However, in order to protect and ensure the integrity of the electrical system, proactive implementation of load shedding is required,” said Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer in his update on the power utility’s current system challenges on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, total breakdowns amounted to 15,439MW while planned maintenance was 5,505MW of capacity.

“Although there has been an improvement in the capacity availability since Tuesday, these numbers do not reflect the significant drop in capacity overnight, when four units at Kendal, Duvha, Camden and Kusile power stations tripped,” said Oberholzer. 

This had necessitated the running of its open cycle gas turbines (OCGT) well beyond the peak periods for which they were designed to operate in, in order to replenish the pump storage dams. 

Oberholzer added that Eskom had been burning through nine million litres of diesel a day at its Ankerlig and Gourikwa plants, to support the system. This was the fourth day of “extremely high diesel usage”, according to the power utility, and its emergency reserves were being depleted faster than they could be replenished. 

“We are using a lot of finances to top up, from an emergency point of view, the capacity of the system – which is not sustainable,” he said. 

“Should we run out of diesel at these power stations, this capacity would not be available to supply the demand, which would necessitate a further three stages of load shedding to be implemented, [in addition to whatever stage was being implemented at the time]

“Similarly, our pump storage generation capacity is at 2,700MW, and if the dam levels were to be completely depleted, this would require a further three stages of load shedding.

“The combined effect would be a further six stages of load shedding.” 

Oberholzer added: “So, it is critically important to balance these emergency resources, together with load shedding, to ensure we manage the power system safely while keeping the stage of load shedding as low as possible.”

While Eskom had significant challenges with units that had broken down, it was also running 16 units with increased risk. Of those, three units were at very high risk and totalled about 1,088MW, while 10 were at medium risk and totalled about 3,252MW. 

“To limit the further use of open cycle gas turbines, and in order to not deplete the available diesel volumes as well as the pump storage dam levels to dangerously low levels, we regret that we had to implement Stage 4 load shedding this morning,” said Oberholzer.

He said Eskom was evaluating the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on South Africa’s energy supply

“We are also taking note of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine and the negative impact that may have on the availability of diesel volumes,” he said. 

On Wednesday, train commuters in the Western Cape were stranded when load shedding coincided with vandalism at Eskom’s Tafel Bay substation, affecting Metrorail lines across the province. Due to the interruptions, Metrorail urged commuters to find alternative transport. DM

 

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All Comments 13

  • My word, these spokespersons must feel shame for feeding this crap to the population day in, day out. What a shambles.

  • Dear Daily Maverick would you like to produce a timeline over the past years on the destruction of Eskom? From when it worked smoothly to the current mess. Who took what decisions, who stole what, who agreed the design of our two ‘new’ power stations, who was in charge – executive and political etc. It would not help the current situation but it would be good to know who, specifically, to hold accountable rather than just the ANC as a collective whole.

    • That won’t happen-ANC, as party and in government plus the public service and all SOE’s have worked on the basis of collective decision making so no single person can ever be held accountable.

      Hence meetings of 20 when 3 of the required competence would be quite adequate in earlier times.

  • Few people seem to recall that that back in 2007, as reported in Engineering News of 12 December, Thabo Mbeki made his first “public apology” for the country’s power problems related to Eskom’s load shedding.
    “Eskom was right and government was wrong,” Thabo Mbeki said, after indicating that government was asked earlier to invest more in electricity to keep-up with the country’s growth.

    • Agree 100%!
      It’s not going to get any better. I’m from KZN. The billing system is up to maggots. I have a gas stove and a solar geyser. My use of electricity is minimal in other respects. Yet I am billed for consumption that is more than twice what others in a similar sized home with NO solar geyser and NO gas stove AND more members per household than mine!
      I paid for my meter to be checked. The lady at the help desk told me quite frankly that there are several instances in which meters have been found to be faulty. However, it will take a minimum of 2 months, from payment, for a technician to come out to check the meter (I live about 5 km from the Electricity Dept).
      We applied for a pre-paid meter in 2018. I got notification
      in February 2022 that the application has been approved. When I went to make the payment (R2500+), I was told that it would take anything fro 9-12 months before the pre-meter would be installed! Why not take a deposit & full payment when the Municipality is ready to install the meter?
      Lastly, the lady told me that I would have to go, in person, to another building in the city centre ( which has descended into a mini-bus taxi hell run) to enquire about progress on the pre-paid meter. Can I email my query? NO. Can I phone someone to request a progress report? NO.
      Now I’m in the process of going solar. It’s the only way out of this mayhem.

  • 15 400 MW of breakdowns is equivalent to 5 entire Kriel Power Stations broken or 4 1/2 entire Matlas or just more than 4 entire Duvhas. Breakdown load losses = 3x planned. World class ratio is <0.4 – In Ukraine, they are being invaded and at war, yet the lights were still on in their cities until yesterday. This drama is not due to pandemics, Russians or economic flavour of the day. It has been years in the making and has a cast of thousands.

    • The problem with the load shedding started in 2007 – 2008 when Mbeki was president. We were told that it was necessary to build more power stations (Medupi, Kusile) as none had been built since the 1980s as the government wanted to privatise Eskom. Then they mysteriously stop until 2014 -2015 when they start promoting these IPPs and renewable energy then again in 2019 more IPPs and privatisation. Any one can see that there is something rotten going on and the all the presidents Mbeki, Zuma and Ramaphosa seem involved !!!!

  • If we go to stage seven or whatever, many businesses will simply send staff home unpaid until it is over. Exigent circumstances.

    You cannot run a factory on stage 7.

    I would rather they shut power off to my town for a day a week than this chess board of 2h idle time. Time to consider less disruptive schedules! I do not care anything about saying oh but people cannot facebook on their phones when towers are down or 18h without power is tough. We cannot run an industrial economy like this.

    Easy for the a-holes in their offices with UPS on the fiber and the lights and their notebooks are good for 4 hours. Not so for the real employers that cannot run the real economy. We should shut down suburban power and keep industrial areas going. There is no point to suburban power if the home owners don’t have jobs.

  • Sabotage is clearly a major part of the problem. It is essential that all the rogue elements, within Eskom, within the ANC and within Government be fired and charged with treason.

    Unity without purpose, Mr President, is not any kind of unity that is worth a fig.

    Clean up the Augean stables now.

  • South Africans are suffering so corrupt big business can profit !!!!

    How Eskom was fleeced: Kusile and Medupi tenders ballooned from R200m to more than R20bn

    Eskom has launched a series of investigations to determine how project management fees for the construction of two of its power stations, Kusile and Medupi, ballooned from R200 million to more than R20 billion.

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