The DA says there is a strong possibility of rolling blackouts during September and October 2019.
In a statement on Thursday (19 September), the party said it has received reliable information about the potential blackouts.
It further called on Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza to outline the threat of these blackouts and the potential impact on the country.
“The impact of rolling blackouts which made an unwelcome appearance earlier this year, was a primary contributor to a 3.2% contraction of the economy in the first quarter – the largest contraction in 10 years,” it said.
“Eskom has kept the country’s economy down on its knees – with unacceptably high levels of unemployment and job losses due to rolling blackouts.
“Another episode of rolling blackouts would be a major blow for South Africans, who bear the effects of abject poverty, and unemployment.”
While no load shedding is expected over summer, the risk remains as the system is still tight and vulnerable, Eskom said in an emailed statement to BusinessTech.
It said that it will provide an update should there be significant changes on the power system.
At the end of August 2019, the power utility said that an acceleration in economic growth in South Africa could trigger power cuts.
The energy availability of Eskom’s generation fleet is supposed to be as high as 80%, but is currently as low as 69%, and even a 0.1% rise in gross domestic product could result in outages, Nelisiwe Magubane, an Eskom board member said.
The state-owned utility, which supplies about 95% of South Africa’s power, has a mountain of debt and is reliant on government bailouts to remain solvent.
It is also contending with operational issues – most of its power stations are nearing retirement age and haven’t been properly maintained, while the construction of two new plants are running years behind schedule and way over budget.
The country has experienced intermittent power outages – known locally as load shedding – since late 2005, a measure Eskom said was needed to prevent the national grid from collapsing.
Outages have eased over recent months largely due to the poor performance of the economy – gross domestic product slumped an annualised 3.2% in the first quarter, the biggest contraction in a decade.