South Africa’s state-owned power utility implemented a fifth straight day of controlled blackouts and will carry out more this week to prevent a total collapse of the electricity grid amid a shortage of capacity.
Businesses got off to a slow start and many roads were gridlocked in cities throughout Africa’s most industrialised economy as the staggered power cuts crippled productivity. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, which supplies almost all the power in the nation, would cut 4,000 megawatts of supply from 9am until 11pm on Monday, it said.
Eskom is seen as one of the biggest risks to the country’s economy, burdened by operational and financial woes stemming from years of mismanagement and massive cost overruns on two new coal-fired power stations that should have been completed in 2015.
In an unusual step, the utility cut 2,000 megawatts on Sunday night before increasing the outages Monday morning.
South Africa’s mining industry faces risks sending workers underground when the electricity supply is unstable, said Shaun Nel, a spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users Group of South Africa. The group’s members consume more than 40% of the nation’s power and include Anglo American Plc. Smelters also “can’t come on and off so quickly, so companies are switching them off completely,” he said.
The utility had planned to replenish water and diesel supplies typically used for peak generation over the weekend, however power cuts were increased after a cyclone that struck Mozambique ended its electricity imports. It’s not likely they’ll resume over the next few days, according to Eskom.
Maintenance teams “are working round the clock to return generation units to the electricity system,” the Johannesburg-based producer said in an e-mailed statement. The cuts are “no cause for alarm as the system is being effectively controlled,” it said, adding that during stage 4 loadshedding, about 80% of the nation’s demand is being met.
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