Lower demand gives Eskom hope of avoiding power cuts

Experts at the utility said that demand over the holiday period was lower than normal, so the risk of blackouts over this period was reduced.

Eskom's Medupi power station. Picture: Eskom.co.za

CAPE TOWN - Power utility Eskom is still hopeful it can keep the lights on during the festive season.

Experts at the utility said that demand over the holiday period was lower than normal, so the risk of blackouts over this period was reduced.

Load shedding was unexpectedly reintroduced in December when continuous rain in Gauteng caused wet coal reserves at a number of power stations, leading to difficulty in generating capacity.

The president also blamed sabotage for the latest round of load shedding.

December saw Eskom tap new lows, with the utility forced to implement stage 6 load shedding for the first time.

But, as happened earlier in the year, the rolling blackouts came about suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving South Africans angry about the lack of communication.

Eskom and its government bosses have been at pains to promise that the utility was doing all it could to bring extra capacity online and in the latest round blamed saboteurs for the outages.

Energy expert Ted Blom said that no matter what Eskom did this situation would remain with us for at least the next five years.

"If you do the calculations, you can really predict and see when to expect load shedding and I think it’s not going get any better, because Eskom is further and further behind with its maintenance programme on the one hand and secondly, it hasn’t managed to catch up and thirdly, they’re still procuring very poor quality coal.”

The latest round of load shedding came at a time when South Africa’s economy could least afford it, with persistently low growth levels and increasing risks of a ratings downgrade.

Without power, industry cannot function but Eskom says the rolling blackouts are key to ensuring the entire grid doesn’t fall over.