The average age of South Africa's power stations is 37 and the oldest is 55 © In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images
The average age of South Africa's power stations is 37 and the oldest is 55 © In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images

SA draws up emergency plan to tackle power cuts

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
12 December 2019

South Africa needs an additional 5,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity capacity to overcome its problems with load shedding.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the figure after cutting short a trip to Egypt to meet with executives of state-owned power company Eskom.

This week Eskom instituted “level six” load shedding – in which 6,000MW are systematically removed from the grid to prevent a complete shutdown – for the first time in the country’s history.

Ramaphosa told a press conference a combination of factors had led to the shortage, including ageing power stations – which are on average 37 years old – heavy rains, and an act of sabotage, in which an individual disconnected an “instrument” that led to the loss of 2,000MW from the system.

“We want security to be increased with immediate effect so we have the whole electricity system under constant surveillance so no one gets an opportunity to embark on acts of sabotage,” he said, adding an investigation was under way.

Ramaphosa said the board of Eskom had drawn up an “emergency recovery plan that’s going to make sure we get rid of load shedding”.

He said between 17 December and 13 January no load shedding would take place. “It will not be a dark Christmas,” he said.

He said an extra 5,000MW of capacity was required to get the system “properly stabilised”, while it was also necessary to “look at self generation”.

Ramaphosa said all leave at Eskom had been cancelled until January and he wanted more accountability at the company.

“Management has given us an assurance they are trying to stabilise the system and get more of the megawatts we have lost restored,” he said.

Mines have had to temporarily shut down operations because of the situation and economists have warned the power cuts will hit economic growth.

Load shedding has been taking place periodically since 2007.

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