REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

SA will be free of load-shedding on Monday, the utility said in a statement on Sunday night, adding that the probability of load-shedding for the week ahead was low despite a constrained and vulnerable power system.

Eskom warned, however, that load-shedding could be implemented at short notice should there be a shift in plant performance.

The day-to-day uncertainty over whether there will be load-shedding makes it difficult for businesses to plan in advance. The economy loses about R1bn-R5bn a day due to load-shedding, something the sluggish climate can ill afford.

Eskom implemented load-shedding  — as much as stage two — last week for the first time in several months, citing high levels of unplanned breakdowns that exceeded the 10,500MW limit.

Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said on Sunday several units that had been shut down for maintenance had been returned to service; water levels at the pump storage schemes had risen; diesel levels for the open-cycle gas turbines had been replenished; and progress had been made in repairing the conveyor belt at the Medupi power station. This work should be completed by the end of the week, allowing the power station to return to full capacity.

The constraints in electricity supply last week were due to five generating units that were unavailable as a result of boiler tube leaks as well as a failed conveyor belt that supplies coal to Medupi.

Acting Eskom CEO Jabu Mabuza apologised at a briefing on Thursday, saying the  decision to implement power cuts at short notice was taken as a “last resort” to balance electricity supply and demand.

The power utility said it had begun measures to avoid or minimise load-shedding in the week ahead, including restoring diesel reserves for the open-cycle gas turbines

and increasing water levels at its pumped storage schemes.

“What we are doing is making sure that we do maintain the power units. The main issue is that over time we had not maintained our power-station units properly, which is why they are not reliable,” said Mothae.

The intermittent power cuts coincided with the approval of the integrated resource plan by the cabinet. The plan tables the government’s long-term strategy to meet electricity demand. Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said the government is in search of emergency measures to close the supply-and-demand gap that has been caused by the poor performance of Eskom’s power plants.

Bloomberg reported that the estimated cost of the previous load-shedding period in early 2019 was R1bn-R5bn a day.

The latest power cuts come just weeks before Moody’s Investors Service is expected to give its decision on SA’s credit rating.

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