Stage 4 load-shedding returns as diesel runs out

Eskom on Friday resorted to stage 4 load-shedding from 2pm, saying it would continue through until Saturday 5am, and the rest of the weekend would see stage 2 outages.

The power utility said this was inevitable because of the loss of several generating units and because it had run out of diesel to fire open-cycle gas turbines to keep the lights on.

It said three generating units at Kendal power station were shut down, and units had tripped at Tutuka and Matimba. In addition, there was a delay in returning units at Majuba and Lethabo power plants to service.

“Stage 4 load-shedding is necessary to stop the use of OCGT [open cycle gas turbine] generators in order to preserve the remaining fuel at these power stations, which is critically low,” the company said.

“There is insufficient diesel available in the country to continue generating with the OCGTs at the current rate.”

Eskom chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer warned recently that the utility was burning diesel “with money we don’t have” to avert load-shedding amid a dire loss of generating capacity as a result of planned and unplanned outages.

On Friday, total breakdowns stood at 17 437 megawatts, and planned maintenance was taking up 4 361 megawatts.

Breakdowns of this order have been seen in recent weeks, meaning that more than half the total generating capacity was out of contention, and stage 4 load-shedding was implemented last Wednesday, days before the country went to the polls for local government elections.

It was subsequently scaled back and suspended for Monday’s vote, but returned on Tuesday morning.

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