/ 8 December 2014

Eskom: Rolling blackouts until generators fixed

The electricity supply is expected to be constrained in February and March
The electricity supply is expected to be constrained in February and March

Eskom announced on Monday that it would implement rolling blackouts until three of its generators are fixed.

Spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said it started with stage one power cuts.

“Three large generators at our power stations are out of service,” said Etzinger.

Eskom earlier said supplies at its pump storage power stations had been restored, and there would be no blackouts during the week. At the weekend, Eskom and municipalities resorted to stage three power cuts.

Etzinger said the latest power cuts would last most of Monday, and “things should be better” as soon as the generators were back online.

Constraints in February and March
The electricity supply is expected to be constrained in February and March, Eskom said.

“February and March are concerning for us. This due to budgetary constraints. Our financial director is looking at options in this regard,” chief executive Tshediso Matona told journalists in Johannesburg.

The power supply would depend on the availability of diesel during that period, he said. The power utility used 140-million litres of diesel to produce power in November.

“We have had situations during this past week where the ordering of diesel was delayed due to budget constraints. Sometimes, in terms of logistics, things do not go smoothly between us, PetroSA and other suppliers,” he said.

Matona apologised to the nation for the recent power blackouts.

“Eskom apologises to the nation for the inconvenience of the past few weeks,” Matona said. “The events were completely unexpected, especially on Thursday and Friday.”

The power utility implemented stage two blackouts on Thursday and stage three on Friday. Stage one allows for up to 1 000MW of the national load to be shed, stage two for up to 2 000MW and stage three for up to 4 000MW.

Eskom was doing everything possible to manage the outages, Matona said. “It really pains us to have to load shed. We know the public is not pleased.”

He said a complete blackout would spell disaster for the country.

“We load shed out of responsibility … A complete blackout would be catastrophic and can take weeks to recover from.”

Businesses hurt
Meanwhile, as Eskom continues its countrywide rolling blackouts while it tries to build up power reserves, Johannesburg businesses are feeling the effects.

Some buy generators to keep going, sell products that do not go off, or simply shut their doors.

“It is not easy for us because we work with freezers. We lose a lot of products in the process,” said Dan Ayami from Simply Fish in Emmarentia. Electricity was not just needed to store the fish in freezers, he said.

“If we don’t have electricity, we can’t even use machines to cut our fish. Customers come here and leave disappointed because they can’t get what they want. With no electricity, there is no business. We are losing money,” he said.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, also in Emmarentia, had to turn customers away during power cuts, said manager Keabetswe Motloutsi.

“When there is no electricity we don’t meet our targets because normally our first customers come around 1pm. If it [power] goes off around that time and returns in the evening, we don’t sell anything,” she said, adding that the yoghurt went off.

One of their machines had broken as a result of power disruptions, Motloutsi said.

The Doppio Zero restaurant in Greenside had to cancel bookings for 300 to 400 customers on Friday.

Manager Dean Snyman said although City Power had assured it the area would not be affected, it was. “We could only serve pizzas and salads,” he said.

Snyman said it would be installing a generator “at a massive cost”.

Some businesses installed generators a long time ago.

Alastair Bishop, of Jolly Cool in Parkhurst, said the two generators he had bought were helping his business survive.

“We saw that the problem is not going away, so might as well incorporate it into our everyday running. At the moment we are not losing revenue because the generator helps a lot, but it is not an ideal situation,” he said.

He said although the diesel they used was an additional expense, businesses would make back the money during power cuts. – Sapa, Staff reporter