Cape Town and Joburg scramble to move away from Eskom’s grid on warnings of ‘unprecedented outages’

 ·19 Sep 2022

South Africa risks facing unprecedented levels of blackouts this week after additional power station breakdowns over the weekend forced Eskom to announce stage 6 load-shedding on Sunday morning.

The power utility cut 6,000 megawatts from the national grid following trips at the Kusile and Kriel power stations. That’s sufficient energy to supply almost 4 million homes, said Bloomberg.

The country is now at risk of breaching stage 6, the utility’s chief executive officer Andre De Ruyter said at a briefing on Sunday when asked if the situation might worsen.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced steps in July to encourage private power generation to supplement supply from renewable sources. Eskom plans to procure about 1,000 megawatts of power on Monday from private power producers, De Ruyter said at the briefing.

That is equivalent to two stages of load shedding.

The City of Cape Town, meanwhile, said it is working to build reserves to enable it to protect customers from two stages of Eskom’s load shedding over the week ahead, where possible.

“This is subject to updates, where required, as there are variables at play such as the Steenbras Dam levels necessary for the hydro pump action; and the general volatility of the Eskom situation,” it said in a statement.

The city warned that its ability to protect customers diminished to a large extent after stage 6, although limited mitigation would be possible by garnering gas turbine capacity.

“Currently…the city is using its Steenbras Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme to generate spare capacity to enable a measure of protection for the week ahead,” it said.

“Customers can continue to look at reducing usage. Geysers use the bulk of household energy, and reducing the temperature of the geyser to 60 degrees Celsius or making sure the geyser is on a timer or only active for an hour or two per day is a crucial step to reducing energy usage,” said the city’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, councillor Beverley van Reenen.

The city said it would continue on its programme to end load shedding over time by focusing on energy diversification. The city’s small-scale embedded generation programmes, of buying excess power from qualifying customers, wheeling and independent power producing programmes all aim to secure the supply of power.

“But for now, we need an urgent national government intervention from president Cyril Ramaphosa to avert this fast-approaching disaster,” said van Reenen.

The City of Johannesburg is also seeking to move away from Eskom’s grid by partnering with independent power producers. It said it has identified a gap of around 500 megawatts of power, where it will be able to shift customers away from a reliance on the state power utility.

High levels of load shedding put City Power’s network at risk of faults and unplanned outages. The city aims to launch a framework within the coming weeks, to procure energy from independent producers.

Read: Why stage 6 load shedding is back – what’s being done, and what to expect for the week ahead

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