South Africa


Stage 6 load shedding hits as Eskom blames ongoing strike action

Illustrative image | Sources: Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images ) | Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: ESA Alexander / Sunday Times) | Electricity transmission pylons. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | A coal delivery truck at the Eskom Matla coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Power lines in the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay, Cape Town. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | An instrument panel at the Eskom Lethabo coal-fired power station in Vereeniging. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eskom has warned that there is ‘significant risk’ from 5pm on Tuesday after multiple generation units were lost overnight amid protest action which continues to hinder planned maintenance.

South Africa’s electricity crisis worsened on Tuesday, 28 June when Eskom announced it was moving from Stage 4 to Stage 6 load shedding from 4pm to 10pm on Tuesday, with Stage 4 being implemented again from 10pm to midnight.

“Load shedding will then be reduced to Stage 2 until 5am on Wednesday morning. From 5am until 4pm on Wednesday load shedding will be implemented at Stage 4. Load shedding 6 will then again be implemented at 4pm to 10pm tomorrow evening,” the power Utility said on Tuesday afternoon. 

“This is due to the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants. This has compelled Eskom to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve generation capacity and safeguard plant from damage. There is a high risk that the stage of load shedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant,” it added. 

Meanwhile, as the rest of the country shifts to Stage 6, the City of Cape Town says it will protect its customers from increased load shedding stages through the Steenbras Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme.  From 4pm until midnight on Tuesday, City customers will remain on Stage 4.

Eskom’s top leadership had issued a grim warning of possible Stage 6 load shedding from 5pm, earlier on Tuesday, due to a significant deterioration of its operations overnight and ongoing striking.

Power Alert 1 – 28 June 2022 by janet on Scribd

“As you are aware, we find ourselves in Stage 4 load shedding already. We have had significant deterioration in the system overnight. We saw the loss of 10 units… and as a consequence there is a very real risk of having to implement Stage 6 load shedding by evening peak tonight, which means 5pm,” said Eskom CEO André de Ruyter during an urgent virtual briefing convened at short notice on Tuesday morning. 

De Ruyter said that while an escalation to Stage 6 was not confirmed, the risk was great.  

“Stage 6 is not confirmed… however, I need to stress, the risk of moving into Stage 6 load shedding is high. That’s where we find ourselves,” he said. 

“We will try whatever we can to avoid it, but the risk is significant.” 

On Sunday, 26 June, Eskom announced the continuation of Stage 4 load shedding “at least until” midnight on Wednesday, citing “unlawful and unprotected labour action” at a number of its power stations, which had caused delays in carrying out planned maintenance and repairs.

Workers went on strike following failed wage negotiations. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Unprotected strikes, protests at Eskom after wage talks deadlock raise load shedding risks

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is demanding a 12% wage increase, while the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has demands ranging between 8% and 10% and Solidarity is demanding 5.9%, News24 reported.

Eskom has revised its offer upwards of 5%, as reported by News24

On Tuesday morning, De Ruyter said the unlawful action had continued and intensified overnight. 

“We have seen instances of violence and intimidation. This is, of course, to be deplored. Union leadership has disavowed this and they say they are not involved in the intimidation. Eskom has obtained an interdict preventing this kind of action,” he said.

Eskom management would hold an urgent meeting with labour later on Tuesday morning.

“This is unprotected industrial action, it is unlawful and as the supply of electricity is an essential service, workers are legally prohibited from withholding labour to achieve their purposes for a wage negotiation,” he said. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “The viability of taking a small town  like Prince Albert off the electricity grid

“To those workers that are currently striking and intimidating, we would urge them to respect the rule of law, and we would request that they refrain from engaging in unlawful action and that they return to work. It is highly regrettable that the interests of the entire country are at risk for the purpose of extracting additional benefits from the employer – being Eskom.” 

De Ruyter said Eskom was having to defer maintenance due to the unrest, adding: “The longer that this unlawful action continues, the worse the backlog and maintenance becomes and the greater the risk of more protracted load shedding.”

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer said 10 units were lost overnight at various power stations, with only two returning to power since. 

De Ruyter added: “We have 3,218MW on planned outages. We have full load losses of 8,582MW, partial losses of 5,622 – which gives us a total of unplanned load losses of 14,204MW.”

“However, we have associated losses mainly due to unavailability of coal and labour, that leads us to an additional 3,661MW that is not available,” he said. 

De Ruyter said the power utility currently has plans to return 3,400MW to service by 4pm on Tuesday, but this is “subject to considerable risk given the nature of the ongoing, unlawful industrial action that we are currently experiencing”.

“If we restore that, we could avert Stage 6. But the risk is there and we are therefore communicating with the public,” De Ruyter said.

Eskom has only implemented Stage 6 load shedding once before, in December 2019, when 6,000MW was removed from the national grid on a rotational basis. 

“If we are implementing Stage 6 load shedding over a period of 24 hours, it means we can expect at least six hours of load shedding during the day,” said Oberholzer. 

He added that, should the unlawful action continue to disrupt operations, the risk of migrating to higher stages of load shedding is likely to increase. 

“I believe we may be approaching a higher stage of load shedding should this unlawful action continue for an indefinite period. We will again try our utmost to prevent it, but there’s only so much that we can do. ” 

Oberholzer added that, before the strikes, the indications were that the power utility was “moving positively forward” and had considered reducing the stage of load shedding. “However, what has happened over the last 12 hours has set us back… really back.” 

Both De Ruyter and Oberholzer agreed that even if the strike is resolved soon, there will be a significant backlog of maintenance “which will further create a prolonged risk of load shedding”.

“I believe that we are in Stage 4 for some time. I cannot quantify how many days, but I believe that we are finding ourselves in a position that to get out of where we are now, is unfortunately going to take some time,” said Oberholzer. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    Now watch Gwedie call for the powership contracts to go through and with it endless opportunities for yet more corruption, all thanks to the ANC.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    General total black-out here we come. Per kind favour of the ANC. Gutless wonders1

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    Unlike his excellency, State President Matamela – I secured the bags in my couch swag – Cyril Ramaphosa, I don’t think anybody will be shocked in the least.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    If electricity is an essential service why have’nt the strikers been arrested? What on earth has happened to law and order in South Africa?

  • Marko V says:

    So, NUMSA are shaking down Eskom who will in turn fleece us, the consumer.
    No action from government, as usual. If this is an illegal strike, it should be treated as sabotage of key national points. I guess by now, the ineptitude comes as no surprise.

  • Angus Auchterlonie says:

    But the very people causing or at least “controlling” the strike are the very people supposedly in a tripartite leadership arrangement with the mighty ruling party! So sabotaging themselves? I suppose given the participants and their miscreant history, we shouldn’t be surprised at the complete phuque up they are all making!

  • Bruce Logan says:

    The main problem I have here is that while there are no consequences for the illegal behaviour, there is no incentive for it to stop! How do we get away from where we are now and start fixing things? Corruption is so widespread and deeply embedded that I cannot see how it will ever be rooted out. Even if the ANC were voted out tomorrow, it’s taken years to reach the state we’re in now… it’ll take years to reverse it. I find myself very diheartened at the moment…

  • Johan Buys says:

    This is madness. Try and run a factory on 10h a day loadshredding.

    The unions are accelerating the process of consumers becoming self-reliant. I can now and will become largely self-reliant, with Eskom and generators as backup to a fairly substantial factory complex that runs on solar and batteries – yes a lot of each. Me, the tenants and the 450 workers on site will be fine, the union will be left trying to get wage increases on top of their R750,000 average cost to company packages from the rest of the country’s consumers that anyway don’t pay for electricity. Good luck with that…

  • Anne Felgate says:

    If the strike is illegal, where is law enforcement?
    Eskom will also have to have its own police force

  • Colin Jennings says:

    Is it not time to promulgate all Eskom sites as “High Security, Cantonment Areas”, this would mean anyone not authorised to be there without the correct identification (time and reasons for presence) could be considered an enemy of the State and dealt with in the accepted manner.

    These unlawful actions are creating life and death situations for law-abiding citizens. Just a thought as enough is now enough!

  • Dragan KostaKostic says:

    NUSMSA 22 JUNE 2022

    The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met with Eskom management under the auspices of the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF) for what was supposed to be the fourth round of wage talks. Talks were set down for the 21st and the 22nd of June. NUMSA and other unions submitted their revised demands and the expectation was that we would engage in a final round.

    However, after NUMSA made its opening remarks, instead of engaging, Eskom management responded by declaring a dispute and then it walked out of the venue. NUMSA simply asked the question;

    “Why is Eskom taking money meant for workers, and using it to pay billions to diesel suppliers, owners of coal contracts and Independent Power Producers (IPP’s)?” Eskom refused to respond to the question. Instead, it staged a walkout.

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