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ROLLING BLACKOUTS

Eskom hits South Africa with a bunch of fives — and there’s no respite in sight

Eskom hits South Africa with a bunch of fives — and there’s no respite in sight
(Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Stage 5 rolling blackouts are causing havoc across South Africa, with no end in sight.

There appears to be no let-up after Eskom announced on Saturday that Stage 5 rolling blackouts would continue until “further notice”. Stage 5 or 6 rolling blackouts persisted for much of last week.

In a statement last week, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan called on the Eskom board to “act with a great sense of urgency” in getting the country out of Stage 6.

On Saturday — due to unusually high demand and the breakdown of a generating unit at each of Hendrina, Kendal and Kriel power stations — the state power utility announced that Stage 5 rolling blackouts would be implemented until “further notice”. Stage 5 means 5,000 megawatts are dropped from the power grid to avoid the system becoming unstable and collapsing.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Gwede Mantashe’s anti-Eskom push could shove SA into oblivion” 

In response to questions from Daily Maverick about the state of the system on Monday, Eskom said that as of 8am on Monday, 12 December, 6,825MW were out because of planned maintenance.  

Breakdowns stood at 14,525MW, according to the utility.

Asked what Eskom’s current coal supply was, the power utility responded: “There are no immediate risks of stations running out of coal. Although some stations have stocks below the grid code requirement, Eskom is taking urgent action to address this.”

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One reason behind the escalation in rolling blackout stages is that Eskom has run out of money for diesel to run its open cycle gas turbines, used during failures in the power fleet. By the end of October, the power utility had already exceeded its diesel budget of R12-billion.

Due to the depletion of the budget to acquire diesel to run its emergency generation fleet, Eskom said it had been forced “to strictly preserve the remaining diesel for any extreme emergency situations such as multiple, simultaneous trips of generators.”

In response to Daily Maverick, Eskom said that as of 9am on Monday, Ankerlig Power Station had 231 unit hours and Gourikwa Power Station had 370 unit hours of diesel availability.

On Monday, Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse made an urgent request to Eskom to grant the city a three-day reprieve from rolling blackouts to address “the nearing insurmountable challenge of escalating faults and outages post-torrential rain in Gauteng”.

Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee reported that by Monday, the metro’s power utility, City Power, said it had received more than 4,000 service calls related to the outages. The city’s electricity grid was buckling from the rolling blackouts and another rainy La Ninã season.

Several municipalities in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal have started experiencing water shedding as well as load shedding. News24 reported on Sunday that the state-owned water entity Umgeni Water had announced that rolling blackouts were affecting the supply of drinking water to municipalities within Umgeni Water’s service area — affecting thousands of consumers in the uMgungundlovu, Msunduzi, iLembe, Ugu, Harry Gwala, King Cetshwayo and eThekwini municipalities.

The City of Cape Town, which had previously managed to offer some relief to its customers through the use of the Steenbras hydroelectric scheme, is currently experiencing Stage 4 blackouts from 6am to 10pm, and Stage 5 blackouts from 10pm to 6am.  

Between February and November this year, City of Cape Town customers were protected from more than 1,700 of Eskom’s 3,000 hours of rolling blackouts, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said in a statement on Friday, 9 December.

“In November alone, Eskom implemented 614 hours of load shedding, and the city offered 352 hours of protection from load shedding,” said Hill-Lewis. 

In a statement on Monday afternoon, Eskom said the inclement weather had “severely affected” the Eskom network in the Western Cape.

“Eskom is experiencing an increase in faults in the greater Cape Town and parts of the Western Cape due to inclement weather.

“Severe weather across the province has put the network under immense strain and has affected the electricity supply of customers in several areas, leaving some customers with prolonged periods without electricity,” the power utility said. DM

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