Load-shedding downgraded to stage 1 on Friday

Acting Eskom group CEO Jabu Mabuza says he expects the probability of loadshedding to decline over the weekend.
Acting Eskom group CEO Jabu Mabuza says he expects the probability of loadshedding to decline over the weekend.

South Africans can brace themselves for stage 1 load-shedding on Friday, Eskom’s acting CEO Jabu Mabuza said on Thursday.

“We will implement stage one load-shedding tomorrow [Friday] from 9am until 11pm,” Mabuza said. “Thereafter, we anticipate no further load-shedding.”

Mabuza said Eskom hoped that the pump storage dam levels would recover at the weekend.

Mabuza was speaking at a media briefing in Kempton Park following two days of rotational power cuts.

He said that as of Thursday evening, the system remained constrained and vulnerable.

“Some generation units have returned to service and we are expecting more to return to service over the next few days, which lessens the probability of load-shedding over the weekend," Mabuza said.

Listing some of the issues that had led to Eskom deciding to cut power, he said at the Medupi plant there was a broken conveyor belt, which was used to transport coal to the plant.

“Contingency measures were put in place to manually feed coal to Medupi while we endeavour to fix their conveyor belt. We have made considerable progress in that we now expect this to be done by the middle of next week,” Mabuza said.

In September, Eskom had shared its summer plan wherein it said it did not foresee any load-shedding over this period if it could contain its unplanned outages below 9,500MW.

On Thursday, Mabuza said against high levels of consumption over the past weekend, the power provider experienced high levels of breakdowns that exceeded the 10,500 MW level. This led to excessive utilisation of its water and diesel emergency reserves.

At the weekend, six power stations were shut down due to power leaks, which in turn contributed to unplanned outages increasing to 12,000MW. 

Mabuza explained that the end of the cold winter periods did not mean an easing of  pressure on the system.

“The summer period is different to winter in that the profile of demand is such that it peaks in the morning and remains relatively flat during the day and peaks again in the evening. Although the demand is flat during the day, it is relatively higher compared to winter,” Mabuza said.

He said summer presented its own challenges, which included air temperature and wind direction which, in turn, had a negative impact on the efficiency of the coal fired plants.

Eskom also used the summer periods to perform plant maintenance.

He stressed that had they decided to use up all their emergency reserves to keep the power on, this would have left the power utility in a worse off position than before.

Now, Eskom was accepting diesel supply and the power utility was comfortable that it would have reached comfortable levels by the weekend.

He stressed, however, that it would not be smooth sailing going forward.

“There will be some dips and slips. However, we remain resolute in our efforts to improve and ensure reliability of power supply,” he said.

“We are working with a system that is old and unreliable, therefore the risk of further breakdowns is always imminent.”

He said this could delay planned maintenance.

He apologised to South Africans for the power cuts, saying the decision to implement them was not taken lightly.

“We also sincerely apologise for the minimal warning we gave you about the challenging situation we found ourselves in this week. Trust me, we are as disappointed as you are when we find ourselves having no choice but to load-shed, irrespective of our efforts to avoid doing so,” Mabuza said.