Brace yourselves for more load shedding, warns De Ruyter

Candle with a flame illustrating loadshedding or candle light. (Photo by Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)
Candle with a flame illustrating loadshedding or candle light. (Photo by Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)

The return of rolling blackouts on Thursday could be a start of a long and more intense period of load shedding that might be implemented by Eskom as the power utility ups scheduled maintenance on its ageing fleet of power plants. 

The utility's CEO, Andre de Ruyter, told journalists at a media briefing on Friday morning that implementing load shedding is not a decision that Eskom takes lightly, but regrettably, "it’s unavoidable".

Since September 2019, Eskom has implemented 21 days of load shedding. The utility is set to continue with stage 2 load shedding over the weekend until 6am on Monday morning. 

De Ruyter, who was named Eskom's new CEO in late November last year, told journalists that Eskom is facing unprecedented levels of power plant breakdowns and cannot afford to further defer scheduled maintenance.

Since December, unplanned breakdowns have exceeded 12 500MW for most days - the threshold at which load shedding usually becomes necessary to avert a grid collapse. 

Change in maintenance

He said because of the high level of breakdowns, Eskom it did not carry out all the maintenance that usually takes place over the December holidays.

"Now we have to reverse [our] original maintenance philosophy," said De Ruyter, adding the utility intends to maintain each plant as per the manufacturer's requirements.

"This will cause us to have an increased probability of load shedding in the medium-term," he added.

'We have to fix Eskom'

He said the power utility will look at buying electricity from entities with excess supply to minimise the impact of reduced Eskom capacity.

It will also go back to the "traffic light system" on TVs that used to pop up in the past, asking households to turn off electricity items when supply is too tight, to prevent higher stages of load shedding.

“We apologise and we regret the inconvenience caused by load shedding, but we have to fix Eskom. We have to do what needs to be done," he said. 

The new CEO also announced the utility is in the process of appointing boards for its generation, transmission and distribution divisions, saying these could be finalised as soon as next week. 

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