Eskom’s rotational power cuts escalated on Monday leaping from stage two to stage four.
The power utility confirmed in an alert that it needs to cut 4 000 megawatts of electricity from the grid after it unexpectedly lost six power generating units. This has put “additional strain on the system,” it said.
The stage four cuts run from 1pm until 10pm this evening.
The utility had originally implemented stage 2 load-shedding on Monday, which requires that 2 000 megawatts be rotationally shed from the system.
Eskom began it latest round of power cuts on Sunday, after a brief respite over the festive season. It warned late last year however that due to insufficient maintenance being undertaken at its generating plants load-shedding into 2019 was likely.
Eskom has appealed to private consumers and businesses to use power sparingly.
Andrew Etzinger, Eskom’s acting head of generation, said that the additional generators that went down on Monday were spread across the fleet.
The outages at the units were unrelated to each other he added.
“It just so happened that they happened through the course of the morning and placed [Eskom] in a worse position,’ Etzinger said.
“We are in the process of returning them to service as soon as possible.”
He could not give any firm details on when the units would be back online or when the degree of load shedding may be reduced.
The outages, according to Etzinger, were related mainly to plant performance and were not due to any other issues such as coal supply to power stations, which has also been a problem for Eskom in recent months.
He dismissed speculation that the problems at the plants may have been due to sabotage.
“Eskom’s maintenance teams at its power stations are on the job. But as to when load-shedding will end and as to when we can reduce the severity of the load-shedding will depend on a range of factors we can’t predict at the moment,” he said.
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed shocked by the “dramatic” increase in load shedding.
“Stage four load-shedding is very serious indeed and it will affect commerce and industry. This will also affect the jobs of other workers, especially in heavy industry and it is time that workers whose jobs are at risk raised their voices,” president of the chamber Janine Myburgh said in a statement.