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SA probes power outage that affected four countries

‘There was a systems disturbance which occurred over the weekend and this was unprecedented,’ Dihwa said by phone.
Image: Mikael Sjoberg/Bloomberg

Power companies in southern Africa are investigating the cause of an “unprecedented” system disruption that affected four countries.

Zambia suffered a nationwide blackout on November 6, while neighbouring Zimbabwe reported on November 8 that a technical fault at one of its main power plants had curbed supply. The disturbance also resulted in a loss of connection between South Africa and Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa hydropower plant, said Stephen Dihwa, executive director of the Southern African Power Pool.

Read: For the first time, there is real concern about the stability of the grid

“There was a systems disturbance which occurred over the weekend and this was unprecedented,” Dihwa said by phone on Tuesday. “This is something which has never happened in the region before and are still investigating to know where it originated from.”

The SAPP pool is a 12-member organisation formed by energy utilities in southern Africa that operate a common power grid and market for electricity.

A preliminary investigation shows that the Zambian outage resulted in an increase in the frequency at which power in the region is transmitted, said Segomoco Scheppers, group executive for transmission at South African utility Eskom. That resulted in power generators tripping elsewhere in the region, he said.

South Africa is implementing a third week of rolling blackouts due to generation-capacity shortages and after Zambia’s power output decreased at the weekend. The outages have led to calls by labour unions including the National Union of Mineworkers for Eskom Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter to quit.

De Ruyter said at a media briefing that he has no plans to resign, and that Eskom would be better served by management continuity given the utility’s current challenges.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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