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POWER CRISIS

Breakdown of eight generation units plunges South Africa into Stage 6 blackouts

Breakdown of eight generation units plunges South Africa into Stage 6 blackouts
The inability to pump water overnight at the pumped storage schemes and the low diesel levels has resulted in critically low emergency reserves which needs to be conserved, according to Eskom. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

At 8:34am on Friday, 16 December, the country was pushed to Stage 6 power cuts after several generation units failed overnight and as diesel reserves ran low. 

South Africans woke up to advanced blackouts on Friday morning after Eskom escalated nationwide power cuts to Stage 6 for the fifth time this year. 

The move to rolling blackouts at Stage 6, the power utility said, was due to the breakdown of eight generation units overnight, which had necessitated the excessive use of its open cycle gas turbines (OCGT) and pumped storage generation.

The inability to pump water overnight at the pumped storage schemes and the low diesel levels has resulted in critically low emergency reserves which need to be conserved,” Eskom said on Friday.

In addition to Stage 6 rolling blackouts — which has been implemented until further notice — Eskom on Wednesday announced the resignation of its chief executive officer, André de Ruyter, who will leave at the end of March 2023. 

Read in Daily Maverick: André de Ruyter had a year from hell – and then he lost his political cover

Rolling blackouts were reduced to Stage 4 at 5am on Thursday morning and were scheduled to remain on this level until 5am on Sunday — after which it was set to lower to Stage 3. 

However, Eskom’s power stations suffered further breakdowns on Thursday, necessitating the use of its emergency generation fleet. 


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Eskom ran out of money to acquire diesel to run its OCGTs in October, which has forced the power utility to strictly preserve its remaining diesel reserves for “extreme emergency situations” such as multiple generator failures. This combination of Eskom depleting its diesel budget and constant breakdowns is one of the reasons behind the escalation of rolling blackout stages.

Read in Daily Maverick: Power station breakdowns and less money to buy diesel force Eskom to escalate rolling blackouts to Stage 6

“Since Thursday afternoon, breakdowns of a unit each at Duvha, Grootvlei, Tutuka, Kriel, Lethabo [and] Camden power stations occurred, as well as two units at Kendal Power Station.

“In addition, the delay in returning to service a generating unit each at Arnot, Duvha, Matla, Camden and Hendrina power stations has contributed to the capacity constraints,” said Eskom. 

No units were returned to service in the past 24 hours, Eskom said. 

The power utility currently has 8,023MW out on planned maintenance, while another 16,672MW of capacity is unavailable due to breakdowns.

The City of Cape Town, which has generally experienced less severe power cuts because of the Steenbras hydroelectric scheme, is currently experiencing Stage 5 blackouts from 5am to 10pm, and Stage 6 blackouts from 10pm to 5am.  

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

Eskom eventually responded on Thursday, granting city residents in areas hardest hit by the recent bout of floods, a three-day exemption from rolling backouts. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • R S says:

    I’d be willing to put money on the fact that those generators didn’t break by accident.

    • Patterson Alan John says:

      Exactly! The RET faction has moles everywhere to discredit the current ANC muppets in power. Sorry, the word ‘leadership’ could not be found in my Soth African version of my dictionary.
      However, the word ‘sabotage’ was very close to the start of the ‘S’ section.
      If Ramaphosa is returned again, the RET faction will reinforce their assaults on every Government institution to create chaos and put pressure on Ramaphosa to engineer his downfall.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    How, in a normal world, do eight generation units just “break down”?? IT DOES NOT HAPPEN!!

    The ANC has cut corners for so long that there are no more corners to cut. People must do it themselves, go solar. Whatever you do, do NOT support the ANC!

  • Nos Feratu says:

    Politically inspired breakdowns would be a better description

  • Phillip van der Westhuizen says:

    When doing a reliability analysis, to have 8 simultaneous failures on independent systems is unheard of. In the case of the Eskom generators the probability of this happening could increased due to the additional load placed on the remaining systems if they are not in specification. But this is still a worrying “coincidence”.

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