Business

Eskom declares emergency as blackouts loom

Rene Vollgraaff, Kevin Crowley

The power utility has asked industry to cut energy use and declared an emergency, noting load shedding as a virtual certainty.

Johannesburg City Power asked customers to reduce electricity consumption from 5pm to 9pm local time to avoid cuts. (Reuters)

South Africa’s state-owned power utility asked large industrial customers to reduce their electricity usage by 10% as it seeks to avert a second evening of rolling blackouts.

“Eskom declares an emergency as the power system remains severely constrained,” Eskom said on Thursday. “Any extra load or faults in the system are likely to result in load-shedding.”

Eskom on Wednesday started rolling power cuts for the second time this year as generators at two plants failed. The utility has struggled to satisfy demand for power in Africa’s second-biggest economy in the past decade, with a lack of working generating capacity forcing Eskom to schedule blackouts for the first time in six years in March to prevent the collapse of the grid.

Eskom is in the process of contacting municipalities to let them know that outages are highly likely on Thursday night, Eskom spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said by phone. Johannesburg City Power asked customers to reduce electricity consumption from 5pm to 9pm local time to avoid cuts.

“There is a high probability of load-shedding,” Etzinger said, using the local term for rolling blackouts. “We haven’t started implementing, but unless something unexpected were to happen, we are heading that way. It is 99% certain.”

Industrial customers are complying with the protocol, said Shaun Nel, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group.

“Companies are becoming pretty accustomed to the situation,” he said by phone. “What’s concerning is the frequency and the magnitude of the outages.”

The City of Tshwane, which includes the capital, Pretoria, said on its Twitter account that Eskom has placed the municipality on standby by for rolling blackouts from 5pm to 9pm on Thursday. – Bloomberg

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