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Eskom will continue with stage 4 power cuts until at least Wednesday as worker protests that have delayed maintenance and repairs persist.
In a statement, Eskom said it is extending the power cuts due to “unlawful and unprotected” labour action at a number of power stations.
The protests have been going on since June 23. The state-owned power utility warned that the current stage of load-shedding may be changed at short notice depending on the state of the plant and availability of labour.
At some power stations the full complement of workers had not reported for duty, it said.
On Friday, Eskom was forced to widen electricity cuts over the weekend as labour protests linked to deadlocked wage talks disrupted operations.
The utility, which has struggled to meet power demand in Africa’s most industrialised nation for more than a decade, has been implementing stage 2 rotational outages.
However, it increased the severity of the outages to stage 4, requiring up to 4,000MW of capacity to be shed from the national grid and meant to end on Sunday.
Eskom said in a statement it regretted that stage 4 load-shedding is expected to continue from 5am on Monday until at least midnight on Wednesday.
“As a result, unplanned generation losses have not been reduced as planned, which has compelled Eskom to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve generation capacity and safeguard plant from damage.”
There was a possibility that the stage of load-shedding may change at short notice, depending on the state of the plants and the availability of labour.
It is therefore necessary to replenish emergency generation reserves to be able to react to unforeseen circumstances, Eskom said.
“Adequate emergency reserves are crucial to assist with the generation deficit while dealing with generating units that may trip owing to unlawful action, and to compensate for the inability to return generating units timeously to service.”
The power utility said protracted strikes may lead to further damage and prolonged delays to returning units to service, which would compound an already constrained power system.
“We currently have 3,894MW on planned maintenance while another 15,472MW of capacity is unavailable due to breakdowns. In addition to this, a further 600MW is unavailable due to a line fault in Mozambique that is currently experienced by the Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB).”
Eskom appealed to consumers to help limit the effect of the shortages by continuing to reduce their electricity usage and switch off all non-essential items.
It said load-shedding was implemented “only as a last resort to protect the national grid”.
“Eskom appeals to its labour partners and striking employees to put the people of South Africa first, respect the law and to desist from unlawful and undemocratic conduct. The labour dispute resolution process must be allowed to run its course without illegal acts of intimidation and damage to property.”
Eskom said it would consider all legal options at its disposal for damage caused or incited by union representatives.
With Reuters and Bloomberg
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.