Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has dismissed speculation that a total power blackout could engulf South Africa, which is currently experiencing stage 4 load shedding.
Energy expert Chris Yelland had expressed concern that given Eskom’s escalating energy capacity constraints, a “national blackout” could now be on the horizon.
“I am having an anxiety attack: If 50 percent of the coal fleet is unavailable for duty and a further 25 percent is considered to be ‘at risk,’ then perhaps a national blackout is no longer just a distant theoretical possibility, but a more distinct scenario that needs to be considered?” he tweeted on Tuesday.
Total system blackout ‘not even close’
In a media briefing on Wednesday (20 April), however, de Ruyter said speculation about a total system failure is “unrealistic” and would cause unnecessary panic in the country.
“We have this tool at our disposal. We have significant buffer capacity in the load shedding system before we approximate even close to a total system blackout. We are currently sitting at stage 4, [and] the load shedding system provides for a further reduction in load as low stage 8. We still do have headroom in the system to allow us to avoid a total blackout,” he explained.
“So I would caution against speculation in this regard. I would caution against fear mongering and stoking of speculation and fear in this regard. We do have plans in place. We have the capability of recovering, and we do not anticipate this as a credible risk at this point in time.”
De Ruyter added that even if a total blackout indeed happens, Eskom has a “black start capability” of restarting the grid.
“Once the total electricity supply is lost, restoring the supply is a gradual task that requires black start capability. Our pump storage facility plays a very important role in that. We also have black start capability at our Kendall power station as well as at Tutuka power station. These facilities are regularly inspected [and] maintained as part of our compliance to the national grid,” he explained.
Load shedding stage 4 could be lifted by weekend
The embattled power utility hopes to lift stage 4 load shedding by this weekend after implementing it on Tuesday following breakdowns of six generating units.
There is a chance of scaling down the outages to stage 3 on Thursday depending on how the power system performs, de Ruyter said.
“We are expecting a number of large units to return during the course of tomorrow [Thursday] 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,” he added.
The onset of the winter season has caused a spike in electricity demand, which is expected to peak at 30,298MW on Wednesday night. However, Eskom only has 26,700MW of available capacity currently, leaving a shortfall of about 3,600MW.
Read this article for links to the various load shedding schedules.