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‘Eskom’s backlog will take several years to address’

Eskom still has a major maintenance backlog, which means load shedding is here to stay.

FILE: Eskom still has a major backlog of maintenance to carry out which means load shedding is here to stay. Picture: EPA

JOHANNESBURG - It's not clear if load shedding will be implemented today but Eskom has urged South Africans to be prepared for possible power cuts as the power system remains constrained.

After a relatively good start to the year, with rolling blackouts only implemented once this month, the situation changed yesterday when two generators broke down, forcing the utility to cut supply.

The utility has warned that due to extensive maintenance work taking place, any technical issues that arise will result in more load shedding.

Eskom says it doesn't intend on implementing load shedding today, but this could change at a moment's notice because its reserve margins remain low.

The utility says two large generators went offline unexpectedly yesterday, which pushed the country into stage one and then stage two of load shedding.

Eskom's Andrew Etzinger says they are trying to bring these generators back online.

Meanwhile, the rand weakened against the dollar yesterday when rolling blackouts were implemented and government is yet to announce details of its rescue plan to help the cash strapped utility.

ESKOM'S BACKLOG

There are warnings that Eskom still has a major backlog of maintenance, which means stage-three load shedding will be a reality for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, the power utility implemented stage0two load shedding, citing technical problems and a constrained grid.

Energy expert Chris Yelland says planned maintenance done during the festive season was simply not enough.

Yelland says over the festive season Eskom didn't shed enough load when the demand was low.

He says the cash-strapped utility was unable to do the necessary maintenance to prepare for the industrial year to begin.

"So the amount of extra maintenance Eskom was able to do over the Christmas period is absolutely negligible in addressing the backlog it faces. It will take several years to address this backlog."

Yelland says consumers should brace for regular stage-three blackouts as Eskom has to shed at least 5,000 megawatts on as many occasions as possible.

Last night the parastatal warned there was a high chance of load shedding today as the system remains constrained.

Eskom says it was forced to flip the switch due to unforeseen technical problems at its power stations.

ALL EYES ON NENE

Eskom is now waiting for Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene to announce next month whether the power utility will receive R3 billion needed for short-term funding to keep the lights on.

Yelland says even if Eskom is given R3 billion from government, the money won't cover diesel costs, which amount to R2 billion a month.

"Perhaps Nene will sell some government assets or raise debt. All of that will be raised in his budget speech."

He also says there is a long-term funding backlog of over R200 billion.

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