Eskom's 10-day loadshedding risk - Here's why

South Africans were spared rotational loadshedding on Sunday.
South Africans were spared rotational loadshedding on Sunday.
Image: FILE

South Africans were spared rotational loadshedding on Sunday‚ but Eskom advises the power system will take up to 10 days to recover from the effects of industrial action‚ once all staff return to work on Monday.

The electricity utility thanked customers for using electricity sparingly on Sunday‚ which allowed it to keep the lights on during evening peaktime.

Eskom had imposed load shedding on Friday evening and on Saturday‚ which it attributed to acts of “intimidation and sabotage” at some of its power stations‚ amid industrial action by trade unions. The unions were protesting against a wage freeze by the electricity provider‚ which Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Friday night was no longer an option. He said negotiations over salary increases would resume “with immediate effect”.

The estimated ten-day prognosis for full restoration is due to the interruptions of continuous processes at the power plants‚ Eskom said. "These processes have now to be cleared out and restarted which would take additional time."

These include coal management and transportation. Eskom said it had been unable to transport coal from its stock yards to its coal bunkers due to the absence of operating staff. "In addition‚ the already low coal stockpiles at some stations were exacerbated by road closures as coal delivery had to be suspended."

There was also a significant increase in plant outages and a bottleneck in routine maintenance due to the lack of resources to optimally operate a plant‚ said Eskom‚ such as ash clearing and mechanical failures that occurred during the industrial action.

"For example‚ smaller stations can only return units more or less every 24 hours due to demineralised water limitations and some stations that are operating at high output have to manage their ash levels to achieve optimal productions. These stations are expected to only return to normality by Thursday."

In addition‚ Eskom is currently managing diesel levels at its peaking plants at 50% to ensure that sufficient diesel generation is available for emergencies.

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