The Democratic Alliance has warned Eskom of using load shedding as a bargaining chip for the debt-laden utility to secure more money from government and clients.
Less than a month ago, the official opposition warned of a growing risk of power cuts, alleging that Eskom had warned municipalities about the possibility of imminent rolling blackouts.
Eskom denied this at the time, saying in a statement there were no plans for load shedding.
But on Wednesday, Eskom admitted to severe capacity constraints. Nationwide stage 2 load shedding has been implemented from 9:00 to 23:00.
The utility blamed the constraints on a broken coal conveyor belt at Medupi power station in Limpopo, as well as boiler tube leaks at five electricity generating units. There have also been delays in returning units that were on planned maintenance to service, and it is struggling with low diesel supplies to fuel its open cycle gas turbines.
“Eskom has become an empty shell that is completely incapable of delivering in its mandate to deliver reliable and sustained provision of electricity. They simply cannot keep the lights on,” the DA said in a statement on Wednesday. The party warned Eskom against using "rolling blackouts as a bargaining tool for more money".
“It would seem as though the embattled utility was more concerned about funding Eskom’s deteriorating operations than the actual job of making it a profitable, efficient and stable energy producer.”
Eskom, which does not make a profit from selling electricity to users at current prices, has filed a lawsuit against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to challenge a decision to grant it a tariff increase below what it was asking for.
The utility, which has about R450bn in debt, says Nersa's latest price determination has left it with a shortfall of R102bn. The regulator in March extended tariff increases of 9.41%, 8.1% and 5.22% to Eskom over three years. But Eskom wanted 17.1% for 2019/20, 15.4% for 2020/21 and 15.5% for 2021/22.
R1 billion a day
The DA said experts estimate that each stage of the rolling blackouts costs the country about R1 billion per stage per day, the DA said. Also, it may have an impact on matric exams which started on Monday.
“Eskom’s monopoly on the production of energy needs to be broken as it hampers economic growth and education. However, the ANC government would rather see the country plunge into darkness than to put its pride aside to bring on board Independent Power Producers to stabilise and diversify the grid.”
The DA said it would take its plan to fix Eskom “to the Union Buildings” in the coming days.