Load shedding set to return as Eskom battles to keep lights on

Eskom's Andrew Etzinger says the power system is extremely tight

FILE: Eskom is warning that the risk of load shedding is extremely high and rolling blackouts may take place. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom is warning that the risk of load shedding is extremely high and rolling blackouts may take place later this week or over the weekend.

South Africa has already experienced load shedding for two consecutive weekends due to unforeseen outages at some plants, maintenance issues as well as limited diesel and water reserves.

The utility has been battling with generating capacity and says the situation will only stabilise once more power plants are brought online.

Eskom's Andrew Etzinger says the power system is extremely tight.

"While we are hoping to avoid load shedding today there certainly a moderate to high probability of load shedding later this week."

The utility is using the open gas turbines and pump storage facilities extensively during the week to keep the lights on when businesses operate.

Near the end of the week, diesel and water reserves are expected to start running low and the probability for load shedding at the weekend then becomes a risk.

When businesses start closing in mid-December, the power grid is expected to stabilise somewhat with a lower demand for electricity.

The country experienced the second consecutive weekend of rolling blackouts at the weekend.

Last month, a coal silo at Majuba collapsed which led to rolling blackouts across the country.

The weekend blackouts were due to general upkeep measures at the Cahora-Bassa hydroelectric power station in Mozambique.

South Africa imports a portion of its electricity from the scheme

Yesterday, Eskom said it was cautiously optimistic that there would be no load shedding this week or in the near future.

Etzinger had said the situation seems to have stabilised.

Meanwhile, the Rustenburg Local Municipality says it's investigating a massive power cut that's affected most of the town.

It's understood a member of the electrical unit in Rustenburg was suspended and in protest, municipal workers switched off the main power line.

Some residents say they haven't had electricity for several hours now.

The municipality's Lebogang Makete says the cause of the outage has not yet been established.

"All residents should keep an eye on our website for more information and we apologise to all residents for the inconvenience caused."

At the same time, big businesses in Cape Town called for the establishment of a full scale judicial commission of inquiry into the power grid's crisis.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants the inquiry to find out how to fix the power utility's ongoing problems.

The chamber's Janine Myburgh argued that these issues need to be sorted out.