As power blackouts intensify across South Africa, utility provider Eskom finds itself on increasingly slippery terrain, pushing load shedding to stage 4 and 5 in response to further breakdowns at their power plants.
Unexpected Unit Failures Intensify the Crisis
Unfortunate occurrences at Arnot, Majuba, and Medupi power stations have seen a single unit failure at each site, compounding the stress on the already overwhelmed national grid.
Revised Load Shedding Schedule: A Looming Spectre
Eskom’s latest development diverges from previous plans to initiate stage 3 load shedding on Tuesday. Instead, residents can expect stage 4 load shedding during daylight hours, escalating to stage 5 as evening descends. This adjusted cycle, alternating between stage 3 during the day and stage 5 in the evening, is slated to continue indefinitely.
Monday, 22 May: Stage 5 until 00h00 Tuesday, 23 May: Stage 5 (00h00 – 05h00), Stage 4 (05h00 – 16h00), Stage 5 (16h00 – 00h00) Wednesday, 24 May: Stage 5 (00h00 – 05h00), Stage 3 (05h00 – 16h00), Stage 5 (16h00 – 00h00)
Increased Strain as Winter Approaches
Eskom’s new best-case scenario of rotating stages 3 and 5 reflects an unsettling reality as South Africa moves into its colder months. If this pattern proves challenging to sustain, it suggests Eskom may struggle to keep the lights on this winter.
Stage 8 Load Shedding: A Dire Warning
In its latest system update, Eskom sounded the alarm that unplanned outages exceeding 18,000MW during the winter months could necessitate a dire stage 8 load shedding. This unsettling scenario was underscored by weekend breakdowns, where even during low demand periods, outages hovered around 16,500MW.
Business Impact: A Call for Contingency Planning
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO, Busi Mavuso, echoed the likelihood of stage 8 load shedding in the coming months, emphasizing its inevitable impact on companies’ operations and profitability.
Stage 8 load shedding, which implies half a day without electricity, poses significant operational challenges. Companies relying on diesel-powered generators will likely face increased consumption, along with logistical and storage issues, culminating in substantial additional costs.
Mavuso warned, “Already, the cost of dealing with load shedding is a major driver of inflation and is seriously damaging companies’ profitability. This necessitates extensive contingency planning by businesses across the country.”