Johannesburg – Power utility Eskom is continuing with rolling blackouts on Sunday as it intensifies its stage 3 of load shedding that saw many parts of the country struggling without electricity on Saturday.
According to Eskom, this weekend’s load shedding was to fill the pumped storage dams, fill diesel tanks and undertake essential maintenance.
South Africans remain outraged at the scheduled blackouts, with some cuts not taking place according to the schedules published by Eskom and the municipalities.
Eskom said on Saturday it was hoping to keep the lights on until at least mid-January, after the current stage 3 phase.
“Our objective for load shedding this weekend is to fill the pumped storage dams, fill diesel tanks and undertake essential maintenance,” said Eskom chief executive Tshediso Matona.
“The change in stages is due to the shutdown of two of our open-cycle gas turbine power stations which use diesel to generate electricity,” Eskom said.
“The diesel reserves have been depleted at the Gourikwa and Ankerlig gas turbines, leading to the shutdown of the power stations.”
This, in turn, led to a reduction of output at the Drakensberg and Palmiet pumped storage schemes, which use water to generate electricity, Eskom said.
Stage 1 allowed for up to 1 000 megawatt (MW) of the national load to be shed, stage 2 for up to 2 000MW, and stage 3 for up to 4 000MW.
A further 1 000MW of capacity is offline after three coal-powered units tripped because of technical faults.
Ekurhuleni municipality spokesman Themba Radebe said the rolling blackout schedules on its website, www.ekurhuleni.gov.za, would no longer be applicable, as Eskom had taken over the process after reaching stage 3.
“The municipality has been informed that Eskom is now in total control of the load shedding process,” he confirmed.
The City of Joburg and City Power said they would remotely switch off geyser control systems to certain areas, by way of managing electricity consumption across the city.
The city also appealed to its “large power users and key business customers” to reduce their usage of electricity by switching off non-essential machinery and appliances such as air conditioners and non-essential lighting.
“City Power also requests domestic customers and medium and small enterprises to reduce their electricity consumption by switching off non-essential appliances, such as office and basement lights, where possible.”
The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality also said rolling blackouts had started in the area.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) this week warned that the power crisis would result in job losses.
“One of the negative consequences of this load shedding, especially for the workers, is that industries (that are) heavily reliant on electricity for production are already contemplating cutting down the cost of production through retrenchments and lay-offs.
“This will be a direct assault on the workers, amid the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and in- equality faced by the working class and the poor,” said Numsa KwaZulu-Natal regional secretary Mbuso Ngubane.