Eskom warns load shedding still high risk

The utility says the power grid will be severely constrained on Wednesday and Thursday.

FILE: Eskom says it has put contingency plans in place to ensure the lights stay on. Picture: EPA.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom says South Africa's power system will be severely constrained on Wednesday and Thursday with load shedding still a high risk this week.

The utility says the prognosis for this week is better than expected and load shedding is not on the cards for today.

Additional units have returned from maintenance while technicians continue to repair the damage at the Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga, where a coal silo collapsed at the weekend.

The station is one of the utility's largest coal-fired power stations.

The power utility says a crack in a coal storage silo caused the loss of 1,800 megawatts.

Eskom says it has put contingency plans in place to ensure the lights stay on despite generating capacity being reduced.

The utility's Andrew Etzinger however says they do expect the system to be under pressure later this week.

"We are using hydro pumps and if we continue heavy usage of the pumps, they may no longer be available later this week and that is the risk."

Eskom maintains that structural assessments were done in 2013 at Majuba and there were no risks identified at the silos.

The collapse over the weekend is the second of its kind globally with another one falling to the ground in Germany.

'LOAD SHEDDING BAD FOR ECONOMY'

Congress of South African Trade Unions General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says these blackouts are terrible news for ordinary South Africans.

"It's terrible news for the economy at the moment because it is going to roll back whatever small gains we saw between the last quarter and second and third quarters."

Meanwhile, the Basic Education Department says matric exams will continue as scheduled despite the risk of power cuts.

Many pupils across the country had to study by candlelight last night as homes were hit by blackouts of up to 12 hours.

The department's Elijah Mhlanga says load shedding won't affect exams.

"Most of the writing takes place during the day and there's enough natural light. There are no exams that require electricity."