South Africa faces a third day of power cuts on Friday, with state-owned utility Eskom warning that outages would be bigger than previously expected after it lost more generation capacity.
Breakdowns at a number of its generating units have forced Eskom to ration power since Wednesday after about seven months without disruptions to the supply of electricity.
Blackouts earlier in the year were blamed for a sharp contraction in economic growth. The government is due to outline a plan for future generation later on Friday. Eskom said up to 2,000 megawatts of power would be cut from the grid—more than the 1,000 MW acting chief executive Jabu Mabuza had indicated on Thursday, when he also said he did not expect further power cuts through the weekend. “Since the media briefing last night, we have had a major setback as we have lost additional capacity from Medupi power station,” Eskom said in a statement.
‘This means that the power system has deteriorated further creating an additional shortage of generation capacity of about 1,500 MW.’ It said it would cut 1,000 megawatts of power from 07:00 GMT until 10:00 GMT on Friday on a rotational basis across the country. Thereafter, 2,000 MW would be cut until 2100 GMT.
Eskom said Medupi units 3, 4 and 5 had gone offline late on Thursday due to coal and ash handling issues which it did not explain further, compounding difficulties caused by the failure of a conveyer belt at the power station on Saturday. The power cuts highlight the challenge president Cyril Ramaphosa faces in rescuing Eskom, which has been beset for years by financial and technical problems. Debilitating power cuts in February and March pushed first-quarter economic growth into contraction and raised the likelihood of South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, losing its last investment-grade rating.
South Africa’s mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe will brief media on Friday on the country’s long-delayed plan for electricity generation. The Integrated Resource Plan will replace a previous blueprint not updated for almost a decade, and deals with planned electricity generation and energy mix. South Africa’s cabinet approved the promulgation of the plan on Thursday.