Eskom has reinstated Stage 2 load shedding despite informing South Africans that the power cuts would be downgraded to Stage 1.
Merely a few hours after acting CEO and chair of Eskom, Jabu Mabuza, apologised to South Africans about the “inconvenience” of the sudden power cuts, which started on Wednesday morning, the power utility has experienced further setbacks at the Medupi power station.
In a statement released on Friday morning, Eskom says it lost three units, namely 3, 4 and 5, at Medupi overnight “due to coal and ash handling issues”.
“This means that the power system has deteriorated further creating an additional shortage of generation capacity of 1 500MW. As a result, we will regrettably maintain Stage 2 load shedding for the greater part of today,” the utility said.
Eskom has again apologised to the country, particularly matriculants who are writing exams on Friday morning.
“In order to lessen the disruption on exams, we will be implementing Stage 1 load shedding from 9:00 until 12:00 midday and thereafter revert to Stage 2 load shedding until 23:00,” it said in the statement.
Complications at Medupi also contributed to the initial bout of load shedding after a conveyor belt which supplies Medupi with coal failed on Saturday, knocking 1 200MW off the grid.
This incident, along with the loss of several generating units to unplanned breakdowns, forced the utility to implement emergency measures which saw the excessive use of water and diesel in order to meet electricity demand.
Eskom previously explained that in order to keep the lights on during the summer months it would have to contain outages to below 9 500MW, however, the breakdowns experienced over the weekend led to the loss of over a third of its generating capacity, pushing it over the limit.
Mabuza explained to the media that by Monday the utility had managed to restore some units to the grid, however, more units tripped, and the utility found itself in a precarious position as diesel and dam levels, which had been in use since Saturday, diminished.
“By Monday it became clear that we were having serious problems,” said Mabuza. “With the combination of those units that tripped it really pushed us to the other side.”
Mabuza said that Eskom had no choice but to implement load shedding this week in order to avoid a total collapse of the power system that would have damaged the economy more than the Stage 2 load shedding has over the past two days.