JOHANNESBURG – Eskom has warned that the loadshedding of the past week is likely to continue until Sunday, and says that further cuts are probably on the horizon next week… which is not great news for business.
Eskom supplies more than 90 percent of South Africa’s power… but has suffered repeated faults at its fleet of mainly coal-fired power stations.
The struggling state power firm is laden with R420 billion of debt and does not generate enough profit to meet its debt-service costs. It’s a major challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa who hoped to haul the economy out of a slump before May’s national election.
Eskom cut 2,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the national grid on a rotational basis on Friday, the same amount of cuts as on Thursday.
More than a quarter of Eskom’s 45,000 MW generating capacity has been offline because of unplanned power plant outages, including at faulty new mega plant Kusile.
Eskom said in a statement that the extension of the power cuts until Sunday was because it needed to manage its diesel and water reserves, which it uses when it cannot generate sufficient power from its coal plants.
If loadshedding continues into winter, it will exacerbate hardships for millions of South Africans living in poverty.
Ramaphosa’s government has promised to inject R23 billion a year over the next three years to shore up Eskom’s finances. It has also asked a team of experts to come up with a plan to fix Eskom’s creaking coal plants. This is due in a month’s time.
Analysts say load shedding is one of the reasons why business confidence in South Africa has slumped in recent months.
One Tweet summed up how many South Africans are feeling about Eskom right now:
— Keshalia (@Keshalia_21) March 14, 2019
(Sources include Reuters with reporting by Alexander Winning; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)