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Clarity blackouts — is Eskom keeping SA in the dark about Stage 8 load shedding?

Clarity blackouts — is Eskom keeping SA in the dark about Stage 8 load shedding?
South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear power station, 30km north of Cape Town. (Photo: Esa Alexander)

Indications are that rolling blackouts went further than Stage 6 but the state-owned power utility has not bothered to inform the public.

Both Eskom and Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa are remaining mum on reports that South Africa has been plunged into Stage 8 rolling blackouts.

Power cuts could last up to six straight hours if Koeberg’s Unit 2, the last functional unit at the nuclear power facility which tripped on Saturday, 15 April, is not brought back onto the grid. 

The Daily Investor reported that Eskom’s rolling blackouts hit 7,072MW on Thursday, 13 April. This, according to the power utility’s own definitions, equates to Stage 8.

The power utility Tweeted on Thursday that its evening peak data showed that total demand was 30,747MW, while generation capacity was 23,771MW.

According to Eskom, a single stage requires Eskom to shed up to 1,000MW of electricity. Stage 8 requires 7,001MW to 8,000MW to be cut.

Read more in Daily Maverick: How to beat load shedding at home… and other ideas

Ramokgopa warned last week that Eskom faced a shortfall of 8,000MW to 10,000MW this winter, which equates to Stage 10 power cuts.

The country has been on Stage 6 since 12 April. Eskom said this would continue “until further notice”. There are currently no functioning units at Koeberg.

Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena told Daily Maverick:

“It is not true that we have implemented Stage 8 load shedding. On the day in question Eskom load-shed at Stage 6, 5,719MW, and also called for Stage 4 load curtailment, 1,353MW, from participating customers who responded by reducing their own load. Load curtailment is well described on NRS048-9.

“This could be also verified by the load shedding schedules used on the day, which [were] definitely Stage 6 schedules and that was what the public experienced.”

When asked by the Sunday Times if that did not equate to Stage 8 power cuts, Mokwena is reported to have said: “[The] load that was reduced, which is the correct terminology, is indeed more than 6,000MW. We refrain from using the terminology because the public becomes confused and thinks we are talking about load reduction that we normally implement when not load-shedding to prevent failing of equipment due to overload.”

This is not the first time the country dipped further than Stage 6. In February, then-Eskom spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha said the power utility was shedding 7,045MW of electricity without announcing that it had moved beyond Stage 6. 

Eskom said on Sunday afternoon that unplanned breakdowns were at 17,481MW of generating capacity, and another 5,657MW of generating capacity was offline for maintenance.

“Apart from other generation challenges, the current situation is exacerbated by the loss of four major units which are on extended outages,” Eskom said in a statement on Friday. “The unavailability of the three units at Kusile and the unit at Koeberg 1 has removed 3,080MW of capacity from the grid. This is equivalent to three stages of load shedding.”

Dr Zwanani Mathe, CEO of the South African National Energy Development Institute, said: “It is indeed concerning how Eskom is reporting on load shedding stages lately. The situation will get worse if Koeberg Unit 2 does not return tomorrow morning or another big unit trip. I expected Eskom or the electricity minister to brief the nation today.” 

Ramokgopa could not be reached for comment. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mac R says:

    Technically we were only on Stage 6 loadshedding but also on Stage 4 Load curtailment, which is where specific Eskom customers (such as mines or large industrial customers) reduce their demand too.

    Stage 4 Load Curtailment is the maximum level according to previous interviews with Eskom leaders. But, it isn’t even mentioned properly on their website, which is frustrating!

    This isn’t necessarily trickery by Eskom but it is clear that there are fewer and fewer ways to prevent longer blackouts for South Africans.

    Importantly, if we want to assess the situation at Eskom then the only number that matters is the “7000MW” load shedding. Which is objectively worse and will further worsen as we get deeper into the winter months.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Viva, corrupt-NC, Viva. Viva, Free-Solar, Viva!

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    More fudging by those wonderful brains that brought you Medupi and Kusile!

  • Vas K says:

    I know that the hope dies last, but if there still is anyone who thinks that there might be a chance for the new minister of darkness to improve the power supply, he lives on a different planet. All the current government has ever touched is destryed. I would really like to hear of any exceptions as I can’t think of any. The mafia has only one skill and the effective governing/management is not it. We must face the fact that we – the citizens, companies and institutions – are on our own. The South Africans must be one of the most resourceful people in the world so I’m sure we’ll make a plan and send the government to hell and don’t let it interfere. If we fall for the fantasy that the clueless and hopelessly useless current government will solve the problem, we’ll stay in the dark for the rest of our lives.

    • William Dryden says:

      Great response Vas, couldn’t have put it better, we must all get behind the DA if this country is to survive and prosper.

      • Julie Ramseier says:

        100%, we the hard working, tax paying people of SA have a historic opportunity to end this cadre deployment corruption once and for all and have the opportunity to vote for the DA to come into power and get our public services working again. it is our only hope.

    • Joe Irwin says:

      It does not who is appointed as CEO or board members. The majority of the problems lie with the individual power station senior and middle management. Get dedicated, honest people for these positions, give them the power to remove the incompetent and corrupt cadres and things will change.
      ADR probably concentrated on trying to stop corruption, but with incompetent and in many cases corrupt individuals at operational level it was like climbing Mount Everest wearing a tracksuit and snow shoes.

  • Angus Auchterlonie says:

    So they lied and obfuscated yet again. Who is actually surprised? No-one in government tells the truth any more! They’re probably all lining their pockets as fast as they can, in preparation for the grand exodus to Dubai, Russia, China etc…

  • Susan Buekes says:

    It wont be long before those power ships will be docked in South Africa’s ports providing the beleaguered country with electricity.

  • David Katz says:

    Eskom generally stopped loadshedding 20 minutes before schedule end. It now seems to go 20 -30 minutes past scheduled time. They appear to squeezing extra time. Sneaky move.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    There are 2 sides to a coin. Heads is this side, keeping Eskom afloat through winter and beyond. Tails is where are the reinforcements, the new power that Gwede is bringing. IRP2019 short term has passed with nothing happening, meaning new power added is zero or maybe a gust of wind, and also long term waiting for a plan update. Needed is the hope, with the list of new projects, a plan with the key milestones for each project, and when they will come on stream. We have planning Ministries but where is the overall plan for the future that we, the public can monitor. I remember Medupi and Kusile plans were shown on TV every 2 years after deadlines were missed and additional costs had to be applied to Treasury for. This must never happen again where our International Projects were put on a Pedestal of Failure for Quality – disastrous, Performance – not met, Delivery Timeline – Years late (still unfinished) – Budget – Massively overspent, Corruption on Project – Still being prosecuted.

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