Home South African Eskom aims to stabilise grid by end-March after blackouts – Ramaphosa

Eskom aims to stabilise grid by end-March after blackouts – Ramaphosa

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But did not give details as to how Eskom planned to achieve this.

 Eskom will work to stabilise the national power grid by

the end of March in the wake of the country’s most severe

blackouts in a decade, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on

Wednesday.

A week of heavy rains across parts of South Africa has

caused flooding, leading to evacuations and aggravating problems

at the cash-strapped and indebted power company, which has been

struggling to keep the lights on since 2008.

Ramaphosa, who cut short a state visit to Egypt as the power

crisis deepened, met with Eskom’s management and board on

Wednesday as mines forced to halt operations earlier in the week

reopened.

“Management has given us an assurance that they are trying

to stabilise the system,” he told a press briefing following the

meeting.

“Going right through March, they will be seeking to do

everything they can to restore the stability of the network,” he

said without giving details on how Eskom plans to achieve this.

He added that public enterprises and energy ministers would

bring proposals before cabinet on Friday aimed at closing South

Africa’s energy gap.

Potential sabotage at Eskom power stations was responsible

for 2,000 megawatts (MW) of lost capacity and needed to be

investigated, he said.

Eskom earlier announced it planned to reduce national grid

supplies by 2,000 MW on Wednesday, down from a 6,000 MW

reduction on Monday. But the company added that the probability

for continued loadshedding, or planned rolling blackouts,

“remained high for the rest of the week”.

“PERFECT STORM”

Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer told Reuters the

power cuts earlier in the week were caused by a “perfect storm”

of extreme rainfall and breakdowns at coal-fired power plants.

One coal mine and three power stations had flooded, he said.

Breakdowns were occurring across Eskom’s coal-fired plants

because previous managers had not done critical mid-life

maintenance, he added.

The breakdowns were likely to persist as Eskom has neither

the spare generating capacity nor the money to take all of the

faulty coal units off-line and overhaul them, Oberholzer said.

The power cuts, which have disrupted the supply of

electricity to businesses and households across South Africa,

dealt a further blow to an economy already teetering on the

brink of recession.

In the short run, a combination of drier weather and work

places shutting down for Christmas will cool demand for power,

relieving pressure on the grid, said Azar Jammine, director of

South Africa-based consultancy Econometrix.

But he added: “It has created a lot of uncertainty over

whether we can rely on energy security in South Africa, and that

in itself is going to damage economic growth.”

State-owned companies have been a

major headache for Ramaphosa who came to power nearly two years

ago vowing to reverse years of mismanagement and economic

stagnation.

On Monday, he vowed to take “drastic” steps if necessary to

ensure their survival.

South African Airways was placed in bankruptcy protection

last week and an independent administrator was appointed to run Prasa on Monday.

But loss-making Eskom, which generates more than 90% of the

country’s power, is the “most serious risk” to the economy, the

Treasury says. This is largely because of its 500 billion rand

of debt, mostly government-backed.

Credit rating agency Moody’s has said Eskom’s troubles

endanger South Africa’s only surviving investment-grade rating.