Eskom chief executive officer Andre de Ruyter says that the power utility has been hit with a double blow of failing units and running out of reserves, which has necessitated a move to stage 6 load shedding on Sunday.
Group chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer, meanwhile, said that there is no certainty for the week ahead, and stage 6 will remain in place until the necessary capacity has been restored.
Speaking in an urgent media briefing on Sunday morning (18 September), De Ruyter said that Eskom is currently sitting with planned losses of 7,062MW, full unit losses 10,877MW, and partial losses of 4,753MW (unplanned losses of 15,630MW).
The system is under pressure, and has been for the whole week, he said, which has forced Eskom to run its reserves, diesel and dams very hard. These reserves need to be urgently replenished, he said, and maintenance teams are working flat out to bring units back.
The Eskom chief said that 1,590MW are expected to return by Sunday evening, and 3,500MW by should be back by Monday evening.
However, he warned that not all of this returned energy would make its way back to the grid smoothly, as there are often repeat trips in the process.
This was echoed by Oberholzer, who said that there are, unfortunately, no commitments that can be made at this stage. He said that 9,000MW of capacity is expected to return to the grid during the week, but stage 6 load shedding will stay in place until the necessary capacity has returned.
“Depending on what happens today, we may be able to drop to stage 5…but there are no commitments,” he said, adding that the load shedding stage will be eased when it is possible to do so.
A clearer picture for the week ahead will be known around 17h00 on Sunday.
Given the current performance of the coal fleet, De Ruyter said there is a risk that load shedding could move past stage 6 – which is why the refilling of reserves is so urgent – but he said Eskom is doing all it can to mitigate this risk and cap load shedding at stage 6.
What’s being done
Eskom’s load shedding stages run through to stage 8. De Ruyter said that load shedding is in place to avoid a total collapse of the grid – which is not an imminent risk.
However, he said that the group needs all of South Africa to play a part in reducing pressure on the grid.
To address energy shortfalls, Eskom and the Department of Public Enterprises have agreed to the urgent procurement of energy on the open market from independent power producers (IPPs).
This will be able to get 1,000MW – but this is not immediately available as IPPs will need to ensure their generation capacity is appropriate, De Ruyter said.
In addition to this, Eskom is talking to municipalities to clamp down on faults in infrastructure and issues like street lights being on during the day. It is also talking to industry to see where further cuts can be made.
Wasted use like the lighting of office buildings at night can be addressed, while measures like the later start of ventilation and airconditioning in the mornings and an earlier end in the evenings can also help save electricity.
Finally, De Ruyter said that Eskom is requesting that households lower consumption during peak times.
“You may think these are insignificant steps, but if 16 million households take action, it’s a great help,” he said.