The situation appears tough for the public electricity utility outfit Eskom.
On Wednesday evening, Eskom issued a warning that it is experiencing “severe generation capacity challenges” and that stage 2 load shedding will continue on Thursday.
“In order to protect the power system from a total collapse or blackout and having taken into account all the recovery efforts currently being implemented, our prognosis for tomorrow (Thursday) is that stage 2 rotational loadshedding will be implemented from 09:00 to 23:00,” Eskom acting CEO Jabu Mabuza said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that the early warning will assist businesses including the Department of Education to plan accordingly,” Mabuza added. Earlier, the Department of Basic Education said the power disruptions are “extremely unfortunate” as it coincides with the start of the matric exams. On Wednesday, exams were scheduled for subjects (Computer Applications Technology and Information Technology) that required electricity.
Eskom has blamed the load shedding on five power-generating units that were not in use due to boiler tube leaks. On Wednesday night, Mabuza said that some of these units have already returned to service.
Apart from those outages, the conveyor feeding coal from Exxaro’s Grootegeluk mine to the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, broke down on Saturday. It’s still not working and Medupi is running at a third of its capacity.
Coal is being manually fed to Medupi while Eskom looks for a permanent solution to the failure, Mabuza said.
Since Saturday, Eskom has been relying on open cycle gas turbines “extensively” to make up for the electricity shortfall. But the diesel stocks that fuel these turbines were running low, which contributed to the load shedding.
On Wednesday, Eskom received additional diesel supplies. It is comfortable that it can build the necessary diesel and water reserves (for pumped storage hydro electrical plants) to acceptable levels, Mabuza said.
Eskom chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer told talk radio station 702 that load shedding could continue for the next week.
On Wednesday night, UCT professor Anton Eberhard, a member of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s task team on Eskom, tweeted that cabinet approved the Integrated Resource Plan and that it will likely be gazetted on Friday.
The IRP will outline details on SA’s future energy mix, and could include the decommissioning of coal power stations and the growth of renewable energy. It is expected to be based, largely, on a draft plan published for comment in 2018.
South Africa’s Mineral Resources and Energy Minister – Gwede Mantashe – has confirmed that the new IRP electricity plan was approved by Cabinet today and likely will be gazetted on Friday.