South Africa’s state-owned power utility will cut 2,000 megawatts to manage the power grid for a third day, its longest streak of so-called Stage 2 reductions since February as labour unrest stunted construction at a new plant.
“Load-shedding is a necessary measure to protect the power system,” Johannesburg-based Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said on its Twitter account, using the local term for rolling blackouts. Its construction site for the Medupi plant has been closed after labour unrest.
Eskom is rationing supply because units that underwent maintenance over the weekend haven’t come back on line and the utility is struggling to meet demand after years of underinvestment. The cuts force businesses to close at peak times and cause traffic snarls across cities in Africa’s most- industrialized economy. The blackouts also come just as temperatures are falling and autumn sets in.
The building site for Eskom’s coal-fired Medupi plant, which will be the biggest in Africa when completed, has been closed due to labour unrest after workers were fired for participating in an illegal strike.
The utility met with unions late Monday and agreed to a resolution that the 1,700 dismissed workers should be reinstated, Khulu Phasiwe, an Eskom spokesman, said by phone. While workers are expected to resume work on Wednesday, their grievances with contractors remain, he said.
Murray & Roberts Holdings Ltd., which is among the contractors building the 4,764-megawatt plant for Eskom, has no “definite clarity as to when the site will be reopened,” spokesman Ed Jardim said earlier in an e-mailed response to questions.
The first of Medupi’s six units, which Eskom connected to the grid earlier this year, is planned to reach full capacity of 800 megawatts by June.
The utility is struggling to plug a 225 billion-rand ($19 billion) funding gap required to build new plants and maintain existing ones. Supply to 20 municipalities that are home to about 3.8 million people may be cut from June because the districts owe Eskom 3.68 billion rand, the company said on April 10.
The World Bank is monitoring closely the electricity crisis in Africa’s second-biggest economy, the lender said Monday.
The power shortage “is of great concern,” Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, told reporters via video link from Washington. “We hope bringing in the power plants into the grid will bring about some relief.”