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‘We were never at Stage 8’ — Ramokgopa dismisses speculation Joburg hit a load shedding record

‘We were never at Stage 8’ — Ramokgopa dismisses speculation Joburg hit a load shedding record
Illustrative image: Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | Kusile Power Station. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla | (Image: Mamun Srizon / Unsplash)

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa told the media on Sunday that load shedding had only reached Stage 6 at the weekend and the return of two units at Kusile Power Station would help reduce rolling blackouts.

In a media briefing on Sunday, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa was at pains to stress that Eskom had not implemented Stage 8 load shedding at the weekend. He also shared an update on what he sees as a forthcoming “buffer” against higher levels of load shedding during the festive season. 

Asked to comment about online speculation that Eskom had been at Stage 8 load shedding, the minister said unequivocally: “We were never at Stage 8. One of the things that I committed to is that we are going to be transparent, we’ll share with you the honest truth — we were never at Stage 8. The experiences of people in the various localities, that I cannot deny, but remember that responsibility in the incidence of Johannesburg, Eskom has handed it over to City Power.”

On 30 October, Eskom confirmed in a joint media statement with City Power that it “has handed over load shedding operations to City Power effective 6 November”.

The minister, seeking to emphasise the point, said: “I want to repeat on record: we were never at Stage 8, we were always at Stage 6.” 

The questions came about after anecdotal reports that some residents in Johannesburg went without electricity for 10 hours or more in a day. Daily Maverick asked City Power for comment, but had not received a response by the time of publication. 

Daily Maverick reported on Friday that at noon on that day, SA was moved to Stage 6 power cuts as diesel reserves ran low. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Yes, it’s Black Friday, and SA is back to Stage 6 for the weekend amid pressure on reserves

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

Adding more detail on Sunday, the minister said: “On the 24th, where we went with regards to intensity of load shedding, if you look at the unplanned capacity loss factor, that is the rate at which the units are failing plus the partial load losses, we are sitting at about 15,500 [megawatts] as we reported on Friday … So your major issue was not only unplanned capacity loss factor, really your issue was on the demand, the surge that had gone up.” 

Ramokgopa sought to portray the situation in a positive light, saying that notwithstanding the recent bout of intense load shedding, South Africa’s yearslong electricity crisis was moving towards resolution. 

Key among these alleged reasons for optimism was the return of two generating units at Kusile Power Station, which he referred to as being a buffer against more intense levels of load shedding. 

He said: “If we build an additional buffer, it means that we are less prone to these major fluctuations in the intensity of load shedding and that’s why Unit number 2 and Unit number 5 of Kusile are important. 

“We’re targeting those two to come [online at the] end of the month, that is Unit 2, and Unit 5 by the third week of December.” 

In September, Daily Maverick reported that Ramakgopa said that four units at Kusile Power Station were expected to come back online by the end of 2023. 

One of the units is undergoing planned maintenance, while the other three have been offline due to a flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) mechanism that was damaged in October 2022 at Unit 1, and affected the units’ stacks [chimneys]. An FGD is a mechanism that helps to reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) that goes into the atmosphere. Each unit produces 720MW.  

Since then, the utility has seen the return to service of Kusile’s Unit 1 on 16 October — a month and a half ahead of schedule — which brought an additional 800MW to the grid. That followed the recommissioning of Unit 3 at the end of September. This means a combined 1,600MW has been added back to the grid.

Expanding on the notion of long-overdue generation units returning to act as a buffer against more severe load shedding, Ramokgopa said, “Once you build that buffer, even if you had to have this extraordinary event, there’s some degree of buffer and therefore the rate at which we intensify load shedding might not be as severe as what we have experienced over the past 30 hours or so.”

Talking about projected electricity demand for the festive season, the minister said that Eskom had provided him with a summer outlook and that bringing back Kusile’s units 2 and 5 would have an impact.

“What we also know about December is that the energy-intensive major industry is closing, so you’re going to have a demand that is going to dip.”  

He explained how the buffer would help during the festive season.

“As these two units come back, our unplanned capacity loss factor, we hope it will dip below 14,000 megawatts, and therefore we should be having significantly lower stages of load shedding and, at some point, there will be days that you will not have load shedding at all and we’re really confident about that projection.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gary Palmer says:

    Certainly for the suburb of Northriding, which has seen media attention over the last year, we saw appalling management by City Power. The load shedding is so unpredictable as it doesn’t adhere to the schedules and in many cases the gap between shedding slots was an hour. In most cases, the power doesn’t come back on after load shedding either, leaving resident without power for up to a week or more.

    City Power staff are overwhelmed and the subcontractors of current are putting ‘plasters on broken bones’ due to shoddy and half done maintenance from before.

    There is high levels of anxiety during the outages as fridges and freezers defrost, security systems go down and those lucky enough to have generators spend their grocery budget to keep them on for safety.

    After a week of outage, City Power giving false feedback if any and their systems not allowing to log or view ticket progress, they turned power on last Tuesday 21/Nov/2023, with over 500 volts surging through the phases. Fortunately I walked into my home to catch the smoking appliances and switch off the mains. I fortunately took photographic evidence of the voltages pushing through.
    Now the nuisance of insurance claims which is harder since the invention of load shedding and the Insurance industry’s confidence in the power utility’s competence.
    Groundhog Day!

    • A P says:

      Agreed. In this instance, the blame should be squarely pointed at the COJ… yet again.

      Their distraction over fighting for power rather than the needs of the citizens they are supposed to serve means they can’t manage the city’s most basic infrastructure issues; in terms of power specifically, it’s bewildering how much of our municipal power structure is now held together by blue domestic electrical tape.

      Whoever thought COJ could manage a load-shedding schedule was on crack.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    If the clown with the expensive watch told me that water was wet I’d seek an expert opinion.

  • Denise Smit says:

    It is only the ANC/EFF cadres who can continue to lie openly and without loosing sleep. They do it for the “party” to keep the ignorant masses on their ideological leash

  • Con Tester says:

    Energy analyst Chris Yelland reported on X (i.e., Twitter) at 06:25 on November 26 that, “At my house in Craighall, Johannesburg, I am experiencing 10 hours of loadshedding per day for 2 days now (yesterday and today). According to NRS048-9 this is consistent with Stage 8 loadshedding. I wonder what is really going on here with @Eskom_SA and @CityPowerJhb?”

    It would be self-evidently inane to deny Yelland’s assertions, so at least one of Ramokgopa, Ekskrom, or Shitty Powerless is lying through their teeth. As for the basic cause of bungled load-shirking schedules, Ekskrom either handed things over to Shitty Powerless without due diligence and proper handover training, or the diligence and training were shoddy, or none of it stuck—all of which possibilities indicate an alarming level of apathy and incompetence.

  • Stampalex says:

    It amazes me how loadshedding has been normalised and now it’s just about what stage – the pursuit of eliminating loadshedding and producing more than that to enable growth has fallen by the wayside… once again sub-standard is the new African Excellent.

  • Cameron murie says:

    KZN South.
    We had no power for 10 to 12 hours over extended periods the whole weekend. Long enough that local phone signal too, was off. If it WAS NOT stage 8, it sure looked like it.
    I was speculating major grid collapse.
    Back to usual stage 3 Monday.
    It’s grim.

  • andy.mylroie says:

    The idiots trying to run this country are so used to lying that they obviously even believe themselves. It seems that like most present day matric school leavers they aren’t any good at math either. On Saturday 25 November here in Magaliesburg we had ten hours of black out and we are on Eskom direct. Not City Power.

  • Stage 6 by Escom standards, does not remember or recognise (deliberately ignore) the fact that there is a current approximate 4 stages of load shedding, on the roofs of buildings and houses. Thus we were way past stage 8 …….!!!!

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    You could have fooled me – since when is stage 6 load shedding when almost 12 hours of load shedding per day (that is having electricity for only about 50% of the time) happens? And that is not in Johannesburg, but in the Eastern Cape! I think somebody is lying to the public in order to appease us for some reason or another – whether it is because they are afraid that their houses may be burnt down by the angry massses, or if it is deployed “ANC cadres” that want to prevent an ANC collapse in next years’ election I don’t know. All I know is that this intensity of load shedding can’t possibly be only stage 6 – it is far worse.

  • T'Plana Hath says:

    “Once you build that buffer, even if you had to have this extraordinary event, there’s some degree of buffer and … load shedding might not be as severe.”

    Well that just sounds like building a power station with extra steps.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Article says “Key among these alleged reasons for optimism” refers to Kusile. What a cock up. Kusile Koko must be laughing now he has not been prosecuted. We are on a complete lose lose situation. Our newest power station is the worst power station.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I live in Jeffreys Bay and here, we had 10 hours of load shedding every day over the weekend. So I think someone is lying somewhere about the situation. Either it is the minister that is lying or his officials are lying to him . . .

  • James Francis says:

    12.5 hours of loadshedding today. It’s right there on the loadshedding schedule for my area. And I also check the schedules of some family and friends. They’ve all experienced several 12.5 hour days, and they continue to this week. Maybe the minister is working too hard making sure they don’t cut power to Ramaphosa, Malema and their tobacco bosses’ homes in Hyde Park.

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