Will South Africa see the end of load-shedding?

After four days of enduring Stage 4 load-shedding, Eskom’s good news of having more electricity to spare as of Wednesday afternoon was quickly overshadowed by news of their plans to implement Stage 5 and 6 load-shedding in order to prevent a national blackout.

Stage 5 means the shedding of 5,000 megawatts while Stage 6 is the shedding of 6,000 megawatts. This would leave 16 million and 19 million South Africans, respectively, in the dark.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan together with Eskom’s bigwigs addressed the media on Tuesday morning in Rosebank, Johannesburg, saying the government and the national electricity utility would do their best to not exceed Stage 4 load-shedding.

In the media briefing, Eskom also announced that their generators would be back online by Thursday. However, their power supply woes would continue for the unforeseeable future due to the loss of electricity supply from Mozambique. Flooding caused by Cyclone Idai in the sibling country had damaged at least one transmission tower that helps keep South Africa powered. Eskom experts have been unable to say when SA would be able to resume receiving electricity from Mozambique.

Gordhan said about 12 engineers were currently inspecting power stations across the country to submit “independent” assessments of how Eskom can be helped. These assessments would help them analyse how long load-shedding will continue and their status in terms of other challenges the utility is faced with. He said an answer would be available in about two weeks’ time.

Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said the utility had reserved R50bn from 2019 to 2024 to aid the the 37 year old plant keep up with the electricity demand of the nation. He said in previous years the funds for maintenance were spent solely on generation, however, from now on, they would also be used for transmission and distribution.

Stage 2 load-shedding was implemented until 09:00 on Tuesday. The level was raised to Stage 4 thereafter.