In an unprecedented move, Eskom on Monday evening said it would introduce Stage 6 load shedding.
"We regret and sincerely apologise that stage 4 loadshedding will move to Stage 6 loadshedding as from 18:00 today, as a result of a shortage of capacity. This follows a technical problem at Medupi Power Station impacting additional generation supply," the power utility tweeted.
To date, Eskom has only implemented load shedding up to Stage 4.
Stage 6 load shedding means shedding 6000 MW. It is an indication that Eskom has lost over 40% of its generating capacity, according to energy analyst Chris .
For businesses and residential consumers, it means more frequent cuts of the same duration, depending on where you live and who supplies your power.
Eskom announced late last year already that it would be expanding its load shedding plan to 8 stages, allowing for up to 8 000 MW to be shed from the national grid. Prior to that, only four stages were published that allowed for up to 4 000 MW of the national load to be shed.
When load shedding is implemented by Eskom, municipalities cut power to "blocks" according to a published schedule. Eskom also cuts power to customers who receive electricity directly from it. As the load shedding stages increase, so does the frequency of the rotational power cuts.
In other words, stage 8 would double the power cut frequency of stage 4.
Eskom and most metros have already developed load shedding schedules that cater for stages 1-8, although at the time of publication, not all metros and municipalities had published these.
An updated load shedding schedule from the City of Cape Town indicated that some areas could experience load shedding for up to 4.5 hours at once.
Earlier in 2019, Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae told Fin24 the new schedule was "nothing to panic about". Speaking to Fin24 on Monday, she said unexpected flooding which had damaged critical infrastructure had played a major role in the sudden escalation to stage 6.
At the end of 2018, Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer told Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises that the impression that stage 8 load shedding may occur in the immediate future was the result of a misunderstanding.