Spooked customers get Eskom reprieve

Joel Avni

Joel Avni

Eskom's groaning infrastructure surpassed the company's own expectations yesterday, allowing South Africa to escape planned electricity outages.

Though customers are turning off lights hoping to stave off blackouts, things are likely to turn nasty as winter begins to bite by the end of this month.

Only one of the company's 65 or so generators was down for maintenance yesterday morning, said spokesman Andrew Etzinger. And the first 190MW generator at the mothballed Grootvlei plant was hooked into the national grid yesterday.

The added reserves from better-than-expected generation capacity and savings by spooked customers allowed the power utility to delay its load-shedding programme planned for the next three months.

The beleaguered company has had little room to manoeuvre for the past few months. It has had to run its ageing coal-fired plants at maximum capacity to cope with rocketing demand. But rain-sodden coal and generators knocked off the grid because they are being run so hard conspired to keep its capacity below the ever-growing demand for power.

So the message remains clear: switch off the lights and save whatever power you can - or Eskom will do it for you.