Power crisis eases after Eskom rushes to fix plants

Load shedding is expected to end next week.
Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

South Africa’s energy crisis eased as state power utility Eskom scrambled to repair broken plants and President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped in to demand urgent action.

Power cuts, known locally as load-shedding, should be limited to 2 000 megawatts on Wednesday — down from a peak of 6 000 megawatts on Monday — and are expected to end next week. The outages temporarily interrupted production at several mines, disrupted mobile-phone services and weighed on the rand.

Read: Eskom will work to restore network stability by end of March – Ramaphosa

“As the generating plant continues to perform at low levels of reliability, any unexpected shift, such as an increase in unplanned breakdowns, could result in a change in the load-shedding stage at short notice,” Eskom said in an emailed statement. “We continue to ask customers to reduce demand.”

The rand gained for the first day in three, advancing 0.4% to 14.73 per dollar by 3:56 pm in Johannesburg. Eskom, which supplies 95% of the power used in Africa’s most industrialised economy, has struggled to meet demand since 2005, due to its failure to properly maintain aging plants and invest in new ones. The latest round of outages was caused by simultaneous breakdowns at several facilities and exacerbated by heavy rains that caused flooding and soaked coal stockpiles.

System stability

Ramaphosa cut short a trip to Egypt to deal with the crisis, and was briefed by Eskom’s management on Wednesday on what it is doing to address the supply deficit.

“We have been assured by the management that they are going to stabilise the system” and that there will be no power cuts from December 17 until at least January 13, Ramaphosa told reporters in Johannesburg. “It will not be a dark Christmas.”

Besides plant problems and maintenance backlogs, Eskom had to contend with sabotage that caused boilers to trip and took 2 000 megawatts of installed capacity offline, according to the president. Leave for all Eskom managers has been cancelled, and they’ve been instructed to be more proactive in anticipating problems, he said.

The economy contracted an annualised 0.6% in the third quarter. A failure to speedily address the energy crunch will raise the risk of the economy slipping into recession.

Devastating effect

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s largest business group, said the effect of the outages was devastating.

“We have received many complaints from businesses in the retail and other manufacturing sectors not being able to fulfill production schedules on sales orders during this critical period,” the chamber said. “The government’s promised plans in revitalising the economy by building infrastructure and driving policies for industrialisation will now come into question as energy is the biggest enabler for any of these plans to come to fruition.”

Ramaphosa said the country needed to be able to produce 5 000 megawatts of additional power and options were being explored to secure it, including utilising floating generators. The government has also received a number of proposals from companies that want to generate their own power and those would be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Friday, he said.

“This time around, we have reached a stage where we will be able to have a new path in relation to our energy generation,” Ramaphosa said. “We have been pretty open, pretty upfront about the challenges Eskom faces.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

COMMENTS   5

Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.

SIGN IN SIGN UP

I smell a rat here.

The timing could be the work of CR’s adversaries. Quickly resolved though. Coal got dry very quickly. Hahaaaa.

Is it perhaps an old fashioned communist plot?

Surprising how a drop in the value of the rand dries coal…

jaja-blabla- promises and plans and look into and committees and excuses and talk and loot-thats about all the ANC do. The original stacker problem at Medupi from weeks ago has not been fixed. Nothing get fixed. Only broken. That is Africa.

why must I reduce demand because of your incompetence?

Those of us who study history would have seen this familiar movie many times. Now we can experience this age-old phenomenon first-hand. Nature is the backstop when humans fail to plan ahead. The laws of nature are always active, humans can escape it temporarily, as long as they adhere to proven structures and strategies. This is what motivated the natural and spontaneous development of free enterprise and property rights. This development lead to an abundance of food and an escape from the Malthusian Trap that is waiting to bring equilibrium between population size and the availability of resources.

To cut a long story short – socialism is the anthesis of free enterprise and leads straight back towards the Malthusian Trap. The failure of Eskom is in fact simply another failure of socialism, but his time around, before the Malthusian Trap snaps tight, nature itself comes to the rescue in the form of sun and wind. If we don’t rush to welcome nature to solve our problems, then at least 25 million people will die due to the backup plan that nature has in store for us.

End of comments.

LATEST CURRENCIES  

USD / ZAR
GBP / ZAR
EUR / ZAR

Podcasts

NEWSLETTERS WEB APP SHOP PORTFOLIO TOOL TRENDING CPD HUB

Follow us:

Search Articles:Advanced Search
Click a Company: