General National

Power utility Eskom says load shedding may be reduced to stage three on Thursday, depending on the performance of generating units coming back online.

“We have a chance of reducing load shedding [on Thursday] to stage three… depending on the performance of the system, and how it improves during the night. We are expecting a number of large units to return during the course of tomorrow and if those units stay online and if they perform as expected, then we should be able to consider lifting load shedding entirely by the start of the weekend,” Eskom Chief Executive, André de Ruyter, said on Wednesday.

Despite this, De Ruyter said the power utility is still battling persistent losses in generation capacity, causing Eskom to fall short of tonight’s peak electricity demand by at least 3 500MW.

“This morning, we lost Majuba [power station unit] two. We had a boiler tube leak that forced that unit down. We also had Arnot [power station unit] two trip. Those are big units,” he said.

De Ruyter said Eskom officials are working around the clock to bring the country out of the current power supply problems and have recorded some successes.

“We were able to return Lethabo [power station unit] two and three to service. Those are big reliable units, so we look forward to a sustained performance from those units. Small units coming back are at Camden [power station unit] four and Matla [power station unit] five…

“The units are coming back [and] we are making every effort to reduce load shedding as soon as we can. We wish to issue an apology to the country for the load shedding that we unavoidably have to impose in order to prevent much greater inconvenience and risk of a total system blackout. Our teams are really engaged and motivated. They understand what the implications are for the country, for the economy and they are working hard to bring those units back,” he said.

The chief executive explained that the elevated risk of load shedding currently experienced is mainly because of the loss of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station’s unit two.

The unit – which generates at least 920MW of capacity for the country – has been on a maintenance outage since January this year.

“That unit is scheduled to come back by the 26th of June. That will add… highly reliable capacity to the grid and that will significantly relieve pressure on the grid. Furthermore, we will be ramping down our planned maintenance as we enter the higher demand during the winter period, so that will also add more capacity to the grid.

“Thirdly, if we look at the history of the performance of our power stations, it is quite clear that we generally [have] a better performance from our power stations during the colder, drier winter season. So those three factors militate against an elevated risk of load shedding. However… there is still a residual risk which we are trying our best to eliminate,” he said.