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Gordhan meets with Eskom board, management as rolling blackouts continue

On Saturday, the minister and officials from his department were briefed on the financial and restructuring issues facing the struggling power utility.

FILE: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan briefs the media on 23 July 2018. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says he agrees with South Africans that the continuation of recurrent load shedding, in particular stage 4 load shedding by Eskom, is unacceptable and disruptive to the country’s economy.

On Saturday, Gordhan and officials from his department met with Eskom’s board and management where they were briefed on the financial and restructuring issues facing the struggling power utility.

This comes as Eskom implemented stage 4 load shedding on Sunday which was expected to last until about 11pm.

The power producer said the two lines that supply power from Cahora Bassa in Mozambique had gone offline as a result of tropical cyclone Idai which contributed significantly to load shedding being escalated from stage 3 to stage 4 on Saturday.

Eskom announced that it would be implementing a full day of stage 4 load shedding on Monday from 09:00am to 23:00pm due to the shortage of capacity.

Gordhan’s spokesperson Adrian Lackay said in a statement on Sunday they were briefed over several hours about power supply shortages caused by problems with coal supply and the quality of coal provided to Eskom, low dam storage levels at hydro-plants, and diesel supply shortages both to South Africa and to Eskom.

They were also briefed on the collapse of power supply imported from Cahora Bassa, as well as a large number of tube failures and breakdowns at local coal-fired power stations.

Gordhan said after the meeting: “It is clear that greater urgency needs to be applied to acquire equipment necessary for urgent maintenance. We agree with South Africans that the continuation of frequent load shedding, and in particular stage four load shedding, is unacceptable and disruptive to our economy.”

According to the statement, National Treasury and the Department of Public Enterprises committed to assisting Eskom to fast-track the procurement of crucial goods and services that were required to “urgently rehabilitate and repair generating units at local power stations.”

Gordhan said closer examination was also needed of the quality of coal delivered to and accepted at Eskom power stations, including the further delegation of powers from Eskom’s head office to power station managers.

“In addition, the Technical Review Team began its work last week and will intensify its review of operations at power plants this week. The Team will provide important information about plant unit failures and what urgent measures can be implemented to ensure power stations operate at optimal levels.

“The South African public is requested to understand that many power stations are between 37 and 50 years old and many operate at sub-optimal levels due to their age,” the statement said.

Gordhan said they also asked Eskom to work with municipalities that supply power to large industrial users and businesses to minimize the disruptive effects of load shedding for the economy.

“Everything possible is being done to normalize electricity supply and Minister Gordhan will brief the media and the public in the coming days on further interventions,” the statement added.

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