Reduce power usage by 20%: minister

Staggered power cuts are likely to continue beyond Thursday, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said.

“It is anticipated this emergency will continue until after the evening peak tonight, and we will continue to manage the system,” he told MPs in the National Assembly.

Gigaba confirmed that heavy rainfall in Mpumalanga had left the power utility’s coal stocks wet.

“Over the last week, Eskom depleted its dry coal stockpiles at some power stations due to the rainy weather conditions. This contributed to severe system constraints due to lower output as a result of wet and poor quality coal,” he said.

This was, however, not the only reason for the shortfall in electricity supply.

“Last night, Eskom lost three units at Kendall power station [in Mpumalanga], as well as they had to reduce output at other power stations,” Gigaba said.

Low dam levels at power stations in the Drakensberg and Palmiet pumped storage schemes had also compounded the “power emergency”.

“These plants act as reserves during peak times, and during constraints they were used beyond the peak times, hence the low reserves at the dams,” Gigaba said.

“This was exacerbated by the loss of imports via the Zimbabwe electricity supply authority.”

Eskom was forced to declare an emergency this morning and implement power cuts.

“After all reserves were used and after a reduction by key industrial customers, at eight o’clock this morning an additional reduction in demand of about 3000 megawatts was needed to balance the electricity system,” Gigaba said.

“To make provision for the shortfall, Eskom’s emergency protocol required that all customers, including Eskom and the municipalities, must reduce their demand by 20 percent through rotational load shedding.”

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Reduce power usage by 20%: minister