South Africa ‘load shedding’: Power is cut for SEVEN hours a day amid deepening energy crisis

·2-min read
Electricity pylons in front of cooling towers at an Eskom coal-burning power station near Sasolburg in the northern Free State province (REUTERS)
Electricity pylons in front of cooling towers at an Eskom coal-burning power station near Sasolburg in the northern Free State province (REUTERS)

South Africa’s crisis-hit power supplier has extended daily electricity blackouts from over two hours to more than seven in most parts of the country.

Debt-ridden Eskom increased the period of so-called load shedding from Monday until Friday, when they are expected to be brought back down to around two hours. 

The shock move was announced on Monday just 15 minutes before it came into effect. 

It means homes and businesses across the country are having to do without power for three periods a day, each lasting two-and-a-half hours.

The company has blamed the latest move on a “major incident” in Zambia that affected power supply from the Cahora Bassa lake.

The longer power cuts require the company to take off at least 4,000 megawatts (MW) from the national grid - approximately ten per cent of its total generating capacity.

“It was anticipated that an additional seven units would have returned to service by Monday, and this has not materialised,” the company said, adding another unit at a power station had gone out of service.

Eskom, which operates 15 coal-fired power stations and has a total nominal capacity of roughly 46,000 MW of power generation, said breakdowns currently amounted to 14,874 MW and an additional 5,579 MW was off grid due to planned maintenance. 

Experts have warned that South Africa could be plunged into darkness over Christmas due to the number of power plants currently out of action. 

Professor Hartmut Winkler, from the Department of Physics at the University of Johannesburg, told Independent Online: “Load shedding during the festive season is always a possibility.

“Eskom, in principle, has enough capacity to cover the country’s electricity requirements at all times of the year. The problem is that power plants can break down. When you have old power stations (like most of our existing coal plants), breakdowns will happen more often.”

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