Defend Truth

POWER CRISIS

Yes, it’s Black Friday, and SA is back to Stage 6 for the weekend amid pressure on reserves

Yes, it’s Black Friday, and SA is back to Stage 6 for the weekend amid pressure on reserves
Lighting candles during load shedding at a Hout Bay restaurant. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Time to power up those emergency lights. Stage 6 load shedding is back, but Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa maintains South Africans will see ‘significantly reduced levels of load shedding’ over the festive season. The reason given this time for the escalation in blackouts is that Eskom had “overcommitted” its reserves and there had been a breakdown of units.

“Even if we are to see a significant period of less load shedding or [a] consistent number of days without load shedding, this situation has not gone. We have not resolved the problem,” said Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa during a press conference, following the return of Stage 6 rolling blackouts on Friday, 24 November.

At noon on Friday, the country was moved to Stage 6 power cuts as diesel reserves ran low. South Africans will be in the dark all weekend, with load shedding for blackouts continuing until 5am on Monday. 

Eskom, in a later statement, said the push to Stage 6 was due to the breakdown of five generating units over the past 24 hours, resulting in a shortage of generation capacity. Additionally, it said it needed to replenish its emergency reserves. 

Ramokgopa and several members of the Eskom team, including Eskom’s head of generation Bheki Nxumalo, addressed members of the media on the state of the system on Friday afternoon.

South Africa is enduring its worst year for power cuts by the monopoly energy utility. In October, rolling blackouts were less intense than they had been in a very long time. (To track the days and stages of rolling blackouts, see The Outlier.)

Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) reached 60% near the end of October, its latest system status report shows. This followed the return to service of Kusile Unit 1 on 16 October, and the recommissioning of Unit 3 at the end of September, which brought an additional 1,600MW to the grid. 

But, after breaking 60%, Eskom’s EAF has declined, and was languishing at 56% last week. 

On Sunday, 19 November, Ramokgopa said recent unplanned outages at other power stations were a “major disappointment”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Koeberg’s Unit 1 back online, while Ramokgopa bemoans failure at Medupi and other units

During a visit to Medupi power station on Thursday, Ramokgopa said load shedding would continue to be implemented this festive season, but at lower stages. 

“We see a festive season of extremely low levels of load shedding,” he said in an interview with SABC.

On Friday, Ramokgopa reiterated this statement, saying that with the return of more generating units “we will see significantly reduced levels of load shedding”.

“It will not be uncommon that for some days during the December period you’ll not have load shedding,” he said. 

power shortages

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. (Photo: Per-Anders Pettersson / Getty Images)

Why Stage 6?

Firstly, unplanned breakdowns at Eskom power stations stand at about 15,300MW. This, Ramokgopa said, is not “out of the norm” and shouldn’t put us at Stage 6 on its own.

But, Eskom had “overcommitted” its reserves, according to Ramokgopa. The reason provided was that over the past few weeks, several units have experienced a higher number of boiler tube leaks and as generation capacity teetered, Eskom was forced to rely on its emergency reserves. With emergency reserves running low, Eskom needs to protect its reserves and that means Eskom doesn’t have the benefit of running its pump storage reserves and open cycle gas turbines. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: How to make six stages of load shedding disappear

“For purposes of protecting the grid, we need to ensure that we continue to protect the reserves, so we’re not going to engage them at a heightened intensity,” said Ramokgopa.

“As a result of that, it calls for the intensification of load shedding.”

He described the return of Stage 6 as a “significant setback”, but said Eskom’s “trendline still looks positive”.

Ramokgopa added that the return to service of Kusile Unit 2 expected at the end of November will provide an “additional buffer”. 

“The more additional megawatts we add onto the grid… means that even if we were to have a situation where you have a cluster of units failing, you have a significant amount of play. So the degree to which you are able to intensify load shedding will not approximate the levels we are experiencing now.”

What’s the plan to get us off Stage 6 (fast)?

According to Ramokgopa, the plan to get to “significantly lower stages of load shedding” is twofold: replenish the emergency reserves and accelerate the return to service of units that have broken down. 

Responses from political quarters

The DA and ActionSA have castigated the ruling party for the return of Stage 6 load shedding on Friday. 

DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Kevin Mileham in a statement, said the resurgence of Stage 6 power cuts “comes as no real surprise”.

“President Ramaphosa and his cabal of Electricity Ministers – Gordhan, Ramokgopa and Mantashe – have dropped the ball on the electricity crisis and have made no real progress in implementing solutions.”

“We need to acknowledge that the priority must be addressing the shortfall of generation. Despite Minister Ramokgopa’s frequent reassurances, the energy availability factor – the percentage of generation capacity actually producing electricity – of Eskom’s generation fleet is nowhere near 70%,” said Mileham.

In a statement, ActionSA party leader Herman Mashaba bemoaned the ruling party’s “empty promises to fix the electricity crisis”.

“ActionSA believes the return of load shedding Stage 6 barely a week after the national voter registration weekend highlights that the ruling party cannot be trusted when it promises to bring an end to rolling blackouts, and that it is simply unable to fix the current energy crisis,” Mashaba said. 

“Load shedding, which has cost South Africa thousands of jobs, is a self-made disaster by the ruling party which it has time and time again proven unable to address.” DM

 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Richard Baker says:

    When will it be accepted that the only way of restoring bulk power generation rapidly is to bring in teams of experienced power plant engineers and operators?
    Cut out the cadres and parasitic middlemen-engage directly with the OEMS on proper commercial terms.
    There is no chance that the current establishment is capable of bringing back the neglected and broken units.
    Offer big incentives plus personnel protection for return to service plus consistent reliable operation with set deliverables.
    We didn’t need an expensive set of foreign consultants to tell us what is wrong and how to fix it. The knowledge is here and has been said a thousand times before.
    Unfortunately ANC ideology and fear of being shown up block these solutions.
    Stooges trotting out the same old laments-actually a waste of virtual newsprint!

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Thanks to the current government the joy of black Friday shopping is gone like everything else we live on survival mode, we buy education,healthcare our homes are open prisons, dogs are not pets anymore but a security requirement, I didn’t buy even one thing always saving for the unknown, we are slowly watching our lives passing us by, the economists are not optimistic of 2025 sadly they are hardly wrong

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Ramokgopa is just a sweet talker. He hasn’t got a clue of what is going on. His whole political carrier has been based on BS.

  • Clifton Coetzee says:

    I’m not quite sure what ” over committed our reserves” means. How could we have had constant loadshedding AND reserves at the same time ? I suspect that increased loadshedding will occur if Eskom labourers don’t receive a Xmas bonus. The tail is wagging the dog.

    • Dick Beaumont says:

      Writing the Foreword to a book about Koeberg Power Station, Dr. John Maree, the ex-chairman noted in 1992, that since 1960, ESKOM had been able to reduce the real price of electricity by 35% and that he could foresee that they should be able to reduce the cost by a further 10% by the end of the century!

  • Graham Mannall Mannall says:

    The continual refusal to acknowledge the lack of skills and expertise to operate and run the power stations will I’m afraid keep the country on load shedding for eons.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Quoting Ramokgopa’s blathering in this topic is quite pointless. His opinion on the current situation is as meaningless as his predictions about the future are delusional. He and all of his colleagues are long in hubris and light on competence. The only hope of an end to permanent rolling blackouts is for the kleptocommies to get out of the way and let the private sector sort it out.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    As we have seen so many times in the past, Ramaphosa, Ramokgope and the rest of the Ramamorons cannot be trusted in any promises they make. It’s all just election lies, and no doubt many foolish ANC supporters will lap it all up. Yet another black Christmas thanks to these imbeciles.

  • Rae Earl says:

    The ANC continues to spew absolute nonsense. What the hell does a statement which says “The return of Stage 6 load shedding is a significant setback but Eskom’s trendline looks positive” actually mean? These people, Mantashe, Gordhan, Ramokgopa, are a crowd of inept and dithering clowns. The real story behind the Stage 6 debacle is probably a repeat of Matshela Koko’s decision to run old and frail power plants to death in an attempt to reduce load shedding in the World Soccer Cup period. A classic case of the law of diminishing returns. Same story at Transnet. Stop treating us like fools Mr. Ramaphosa. Your party’s demise is urgently needed if SA is to be saved

  • Stuart Burton says:

    What is ‘unplanned breakdowns’ for goodness sake? I mean is there such a thing? These breakdowns can only be due to a lack of planned/ongoing maintenance that is in turn due to bad management and/or sabotage. So then maybe it’s actually called planned breakdowns that is the cause of these unplanned outages. Let’s have the Chinese or any of our Brics partners take over our entire power distribution network and then they may as well take over the policing of its upkeep as well. And then while they at it they may as well take over all our utilities. And our country maybe? We South Africans should be ashamed of ourselves. Absolutely pathetic state of affairs! The Springbok rugby team are a shining example of what can be achieved by a collaborative team of South Africans that includes a team of conscientious leaders. Pity all our people don’t learn from this so we work towrads applying similar principles to the principles of good governance of our land. We could be so much better together! We all need to keep fixing things so they don’t break down! And this starts by electing a team of conscientious leaders.

  • Leslie van Minnen says:

    Bothe the minister and his buddy’s are not worth the salaries paid to then Just more and more promises. I remember that the previous minister of transport, with great fanfare, informed the public that he would sort PRASA out in 100 days after he took control. He of course did not say in what century these 100 days would be. Currently PRASA’s passenger base has dropped to 7% of what it was.
    How come we constantly hear that our power stations are 40 years old thus the constant breakdowns. What of the multibillion two “new” stations that are over budget, over the contracted building period and hardly work?
    Just another day in the ANC’s version of paradise.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.