Large-scale load shedding set to begin this week

Eskom warns that the power grid needs regular maintenance in order to avoid a national blackout.

FILE: Eskom warns that the power grid needs regular maintenance in order to avoid a national blackout. Picture: Free Images

JOHANNESBURG - Businesses, major cities and ordinary South Africans could be hit by large-scale load shedding set to start from this week onwards.

Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona has warned that the ageing power grid needs extensive maintenance which wasn't done regularly over the past few years.

The utility has been battling to keep up with demands due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations.

Last week, the utility implemented rolling blackouts for the first time this year after several generators broke down.

In order to keep the lights on and have sustainable electricity in the future, the system will have to undergo regular maintenance over the next few months before new generating capacity comes online.

During a media briefing last week, Matona displayed calendar for the next three months, showing that the risk of load shedding will be high.

"We have opted to do things the right way paying for the consequences that are there."

This is due to maintenance work that simply was not done and now the utility has to catch up.

Businesses are already preparing to work around this or install generators to keep their doors open.

There are also reports of tourism costs increasing with places of accommodations set to move to solar and gas power while ordinary South Africans have been urged to use electricity sparingly or find alternative ways to power their homes.

Last year, the country suffered its worst outages since 2008, hurt by outdated infrastructure and plant failures.

South African power demand typically ranges from around 30,000 to 35,000 megawatts, so the country's reserves to keep the lights on is only at around 3 percent.

The first unit of the much-delayed Medupi power plant would be synchronised to the grid soon and reach commercial or full output of 794 MW by June.

Another five units will follow and the first unit of the new Kusile plant should come online in 2017.