Eskom continues with stage 2 load shedding on Sunday

State power utility Eskom said it will implement stage 2 load shedding from 09h00 to 23h00 on Sunday.

Eskom issued a statement on Saturday evening stating that load shedding will continue “to cater for further trips” and to replenish water reserves from its pumped storage schemes.

“Sufficient water and diesel reserves are necessary to limit the level of load shedding in the coming week,” it said.

Eskom moved to stage 4 load shedding on Friday, cutting 4,000 megawatts from the grid from and representing the highest degree that has been implemented thus far by the utility.

Eskom, which supplies about 95% of the nation’s power, had earlier announced plans to cut 2,000 megawatts from Friday morning through Saturday morning. Problems at its plants were compounded by heavy rains that soaked coal stockpiles, rendering about 13,000 megawatts of its generating capacity unavailable.

South Africa has experienced intermittent power shortages since 2005 as a result of Eskom’s failure to properly maintain its aging plants and timeously invest in new ones. The utility had amassed R454 billion in debt, and is seen as the biggest threat to the nation’s economy.

Electricity shortages in the first quarter contributed to the country’s biggest economic contraction in a decade, Bloomberg reported.

Decisions taken by past management to truck coal to some plants instead of transporting it on conveyor belts has exacerbated power supply constraints because the fuel is exposed to rain, according to Ted Blom, an energy analyst who has consulted to the utility.

“Eskom has been doing patch jobs at the plants and because of too much pressure, they run the plans harder than they should,” he said. “There are no quality assurances on the coal being delivered by trucks. They shouldn’t be buying coal from trucks.”

The government plans to split the utility into generation, distribution, and transmission units under a state holding company – a move it says will make it easier for them to raise financing and improve efficiency. Andre de Ruyter is due to take over as the company’s new chief executive officer on Jan. 15.

“The big missing link is strong leadership and with the new CEO there is a big chance to get back on track,” said Mike Rossouw, who has advised Eskom on how to address its construction challenges.

“Eskom seriously neglected the generation side and I think the new guy has an understanding of what needs to be done to address the demand situation.”

Read: Why Eskom expects a R20 billion full year loss – despite turning a mid-year profit

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Eskom continues with stage 2 load shedding on Sunday