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Less than a week into the new year and Eskom has already broken its load shedding promise

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South Africans lose faith as power utility introduces more rolling blackouts and says system remains constrained.

Cape Town – Eskom once again took South

Africans by surprise, implementing stage 2 load shedding from Saturday night after a conveyor belt failure at its Medupi power station.

This despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise early in December that there wouldn’t be load shedding from December 17 until January 13 after he announced that there would be no leave for Eskom’s top brass during the festive season.

Energy expert Ted Blom said nobody could give that type of guarantee.

“No ‘proper’ engineer with a generation background would even dream of giving such an undertaking under the current circumstances. 

“The current maintenance effort is only superficially trying to patch gensets that actually need total refurbishment, and have not been properly maintained since 2010,” he said.

While Ramaphosa was yet to make a statement on the latest blackouts, his spokesperson Khusela Diko yesterday did not respond to requests for

comment by deadline.

Last night, Eskom said it had stopped load shedding by 11pm as its water levels at pumped storage schemes were adequately replenished. “We have managed to conserve diesel at our open cycle gas turbine generators, and continue to work to replenish the diesel levels.

“The system remains constrained and vulnerable, with unplanned breakdowns at 13 041 MW as at 9pm on Sunday. No load shedding is expected on Monday. 

“However, should there be a significant shift in plant performance and an increase in unplanned breakdowns, load shedding could be implemented at short notice.

“We continue to ask customers to reduce demand by using electricity sparingly as a concerted collective effort can help to avoid or reduce the level of load shedding.”

Last year, Ramaphosa held an urgent meeting with the Eskom board and management after a State visit to Egypt was cut short when Eskom implemented Stage 6 load shedding – a move that appeared to catch Ramaphosa by surprise. He had blamed sabotage as the cause of the blackouts.

The latest blackouts come just as André de Ruyter officially takes over as Eskom chief executive today, about ten days earlier than initially expected.

Eskom had not had a permanent chief executive since the resignation of Phakamani Hadebe in July, and board chairperson Jabu Mabuza acted as its chief executive on an interim basis.

Civil society Stop CoCT founder

Sandra Dickson said: “I think Eskom and the government have lost the last bit of credibility they had.

“They keep on dancing around what is really happening because the first excuse they gave was a conveyor belt that broke down, the second was maintenance, then we read about a lack of diesel and emergency water.

“This does not make sense, Medupi is brand new, how can it keep having breakdowns. The amount of power being lost versus what they said they have available should not result in a problem.”

Additional reporting by Karen Singh.

Cape Times