Eskom says that while load shedding is unlikely to happen this week thanks to improved coal stockpiling, the grid remains under pressure, which will increase as factories begin to fire up again next week.
Speaking to EWN, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that power stations have been supplied with more coal and are at more “comfortable” levels, but demand is still relatively low as factories and big businesses have not yet returned to full operation.
With schools starting soon and as most people settle into the new year, Eskom said its systems will be constrained.
In December 2018, the state company announced that the risk of load shedding would be low through to 13 January 2019 as businesses and industries closed shop for the holiday period.
As part of its bid to keep the lights on over the holidays, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said that leave for managers was cancelled, and it would be all hands on deck over the period.
“When we come back to work in mid-January up until the end of March we ideally want to tell the public that there will be no level 2 load shedding,” Gordhan said.
Phasiwe said previously that maintenance work had been conducted over the quieter festive season, with many units back up and helping supply power to the grid. However, Eskom’s woes are far from over, with economists listing the company as the number one threat to the economy in 2019.
With Eskom’s financial problems, a bloated workforce and mounting debt, energy experts believe that the company does not have the capacity to resolve the power crisis quickly, and the country may be stuck with load shedding for as much as another five years.
If load shedding persists throughout 2019, the country’s GDP growth could be slashed in half.