Ramaphosa on stage 4 load shedding: ‘The calamity of all calamities’

Ramaphosa said that the biggest risk facing South Africa right now is that the country relies on Eskom as the sole generator of electricity.

Addressing a press conference on Monday evening (8 November), the president said that the country simply does not have a choice of moving from one provider to the other.

“The independent power producers are pumping in whatever they can, but the majority of them are still under construction,” he said. “The direction that we now need to move towards is to restructure Eskom to have a separate generation entity that can purchase power from other producers.”

With this split, Ramaphosa said that a separate government-owned transmission unit would provide power to citizens.

“We do want to have a measure of competition there so that we can all know that when the machines break down, there are others there.”

Ramaphosa noted that it was difficult to put a timeframe on the end of load shedding but acknowledged that South Africa was ‘in a very difficult and precarious situation’.

“We have heard from the Eskom CEO (Andre de Ruyer) that load shedding will be with us for a while – but I don’t think he meant stage 4 load shedding. If there is anything that keeps me awake at night, it is Eskom and electricity generation.”

Why load shedding is so bad right now 

Ramaphosa also provided an explanation for South Africa’s latest round of stage 4 load shedding.

The president said that historically this is the time of year when Eskom does more servicing as national power demand has decreased. However, he said that the power utility has now run into problems as the power units that the country is relying on during servicing have broken down.

“So they take out a big chunk of the fleet for servicing. This means that they dismantle everything, and they cannot bring it back within a week. It gets worse when those units that you are now relying on have breakdowns.”

Ramaphosa said that some of these breakdowns are due to negligence while others are simple mechanical faults.

“While our installed capacity is some 42,000MW, the available capacity has been declining and is below 30,000MW. To drive the electricity in the country, you need between 27,000MW and 30,000MW, and when you lose 15,000MW, that is serious.

“These things break, they are machines, and they break from time to time – and the calamity of all calamities descends upon you when more than 30-40% of your fleet then break down when you are maintaining the others – and this is what has visited us.”

On Monday, Eskom announced that 14,874MW of power had been pulled offline due to breakdowns, while a further 5,579 was offline for planned maintenance. This represents 49% of installed capacity being unavailable.

Read: How much it costs to get off Eskom’s grid and away from load shedding

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Ramaphosa on stage 4 load shedding: ‘The calamity of all calamities’