WATCH | Permanent Stage 2 load shedding an option - but Eskom decided against it, for now

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  • Eskom had considered continuous load shedding and to "normalise" it at Stage 2.
  • This would give Eskom more scope to plan for maintenance, said CEO André de Ruyter. 
  • However, it was decided that doing this would not add "significant additional" headroom for doing maintenance. 
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Eskom has considered instituting permanent load shedding, but has decided against it for now.

On Sunday, Eskom chief executive officer André de Ruyter said the utility had considered continuous load shedding and to "normalise" it at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch.

This would give Eskom more scope to plan for maintenance.

However, the utility found that nonstop load shedding at low levels wouldn’t add "significant additional" headroom for doing maintenance, and decided not to opt for it.

"We have debated [permanent load shedding] extensively internally. In a certain way, the planned maintenance we carry out contributes to load shedding because it is capacity that we plan to take off the grid," De Ruyter said. In the end, however, Eskom decided against it, he said. 

READ | Stage 6 planned for Monday, with heavy load shedding expected for the week

Following a disastrous week of large-scale breakdowns at coal-fired power stations, Eskom now expects that it will have to increase load shedding above planned levels over the summer months, De Ruyter confirmed.

On Sunday, Stage 6 load shedding hit South Africa. Monday will also see Stage 6 with and "high levels" of load shedding expected for the week, Eskom warned.

Eskom is struggling to replenish its emergency reserves, which come from two sources: hydroelectric energy from dams, and open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT), which burn diesel.

Diesel levels at its Ankerlig OCGT is only 32%, which is "too low for comfort". It will take some time for trucks to replenish the diesel.

Meanwhile, Eskom doesn’t have the money to pay for diesel. Over the past five months, it has "burnt" its way through R7.7 billion in diesel – its entire budget for the year.

READ | Inside Eskom's week from hell – fires, broken conveyors and disaster as 50% of generation capacity fails

Diesel prices have rocketed this year, and unlike petrol, shows little sign of cooling. According to the latest Central Energy Fund data, petrol prices may be on track for another cut in October – but diesel may still be hiked. Diesel prices are remaining stickier than petrol because of a squeeze on diesel supplies worldwide.

For now, Eskom has allocated another R500 million to purchase more diesel.

De Ruyter said Eskom would seek to procure 1 000MW of capacity from independent power producers (IPPs) to ease pressure on the grid. This way Eskom can reduce its reliance on diesel and save money, he said. 

"The system has been under severe pressure over the past week and this has caused us to run our reserves (diesel and dams) very hard. We are at a situation where we urgently need to replenish these reserves in order to maintain an adequate safety buffer." 

Eskom had an urgent board meeting on Saturday, attended by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, to discuss the way forward. "[On Monday] we will be approaching the market to procure whatever is available on an urgent basis."

But, he said, procuring large-scale generation capacity could take some time. 

In the meantime, De Ruyter appealed to South Africans to use electricity as sparingly as possible. 

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