Dark days and nights

2018-11-30 15:37

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Switch off your geysers, dust off those candles and get ready for cold suppers and no TV — it looks like we are back to those dark days of load shedding.

That’s according to the country’s beleaguered power utility Eskom, after the company announced on Thursday that it was implementing stage one load shedding with immediate effect.

Releasing the utility’s dire financial results on Wednesday, CEO Phakamani Hadebe said: “The past six months have been a difficult period for Eskom ... with steady decline on coal levels threatening the firm’s ability to keep the lights on.”

Hadebe added: “Given the current challenges, load shedding cannot be ruled out.”

Hadebe’s warning was underlined by chairperson Jabu Mabuza, who said: “Eskom is in a state of severe financial difficulty. In its current state Eskom is not sustainable.”

It is feared the country will now be facing regular electricity outages throughout next year.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe confirmed on Thursday that the country was “likely to experience load shedding from now until 2020”.

“This does not mean that people will have load shedding every day but there will be certain times where areas will be without power,” he said.

He said a lack of maintenance of Eskom equipment and financial pressures had pushed the electricity giant to make the decision.

“We stopped frequent load shedding in 2015 but it looks like we are now back to those dark days,” he said.

Eskom’s media desk released a statement explaining the load shedding was due to the “increased generation plant being out for planned maintenance and unplanned outages”.

“Stage one rotational load shedding will be implemented from 12 pm until 10 pm today [Thursday].

“Customers are advised to keep checking their load shedding schedules on the Eskom website or municipal websites to determine when they are due to get load shedding,” said the statement.

Eskom’s announcement had many citizens and local businesses up in arms.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness said that if load shedding was extended to 2020, the damage to business would be “incalculable over that length of time”.

She said shutting down and starting up factories and machinery was very disruptive and could even cause damage to equipment.

“I find it unacceptable that such in-efficiency and corruption can be visited upon us. The private sector is dealing with crazy financial pressure in an eco-nomy that is not doing well.

“People are trying to create jobs but this will be impossible to do with the load shedding.”

Veness added that Eskom needs to “get their house in order”, saying the company was “disabling a good working environment”.

She also said that electricity in South Africa was cheap in times gone by, which had created an attractive investment environment, something that high pricing and load shedding would cripple.

Eskom’s statement said its direct customers can check their schedules on the Eskom website (http://loadshedding.eskom.co.za).

“Load shedding is conducted as a measure of last resort to protect the power system from a total collapse or blackout,” said Eskom’s statement.

“We encourage residents and businesses to please use electricity sparingly to ease the demand of electricity.

“Please switch off geysers as well as all non-essential lighting and electricity appliances to assist in reducing demand.

“Eskom will provide regular updates on the status of the power system through all the media platforms.”

The latest news comes on the back of recent fears that Eskom would have to implement stage eight load shedding, which could last 16 hours a day.

Energy expert Ted Blom feared stage eight was a possibility, and said Eskom had a shortfall of some 100 million tonnes of coal.

“I said a week ago that load shedding would last for at least five years.

“We have run out of coal, and if you do the maths, it will take five years to open a new mine.”

Blom said one alternative for Eskom would be to ask South African coal exporters to stop exporting coal, and sell it to Eskom.

“But this could cause the rand to plummet and Eskom would have to make payments [to the companies] which it may not be able to do.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  load shedding

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