As a country, South Africans have become accustomed to strange things happening under the cover of darkness. Just when we were getting used to the relief of lower load-shedding stages, Eskom sent the country into darkness with Stage 6 shedding over the weekend.
In the latest instalment of strange things happening in South Africa, power utility Eskom opted to send out Stage 6 load-shedding alerts despite the country facing an effective Stage 8. Over 7,000 MW of electricity was cut from the grid on Thursday last week.
What’s the deal, Eskom?
Energy experts have accused Eskom of misinforming the country based on the number of hours that most households around the country experienced load shedding. Some households went without electricity for more than ten hours a day over this past weekend.
“One can say that there was some form of misinformation looking at the number of hours associated with load shedding that we’ve seen over the past two days,” said Prof Sampson Mamphweli from the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) in an interview with Newsroom Afrika.
Instead of informing South Africa about the upgrade from Stage 6 to Stage 8, the utility sent out a statement on Friday saying “Eskom is working around the clock to avoid higher stages of load-shedding”.
This is not the first time that Eskom has been accused of lying to the country about the load-shedding levels.
Despite the utility claiming to work around the clock on an issue that it’s faced for years, some households around the country endured extended periods of darkness over the weekend despite the biggest electricity demanders being closed over the weekend.
Eskom’s statement on Friday blames Units 1, 2 and 3 of Kusile Power Station which have been offline due to Unit 1’s flue gas duct failure that happened back in October 2022. It says it is working to bring the unit back online by November 2023.
In addition to the three units and “other generation challenges,” Eskom says there’s a long-term outage at Koeberg.
“Unit 1 at Koeberg Power Station is currently on a long-term outage for maintenance and refueling as well as the replacement of the steam generators and is expected to return to service on 6 August 2023,” adds Eskom.
“The unavailability of the three units at Kusile and the unit at Koeberg 1 has removed 3 080MW of capacity from the grid. This is equivalent to 3 stages of load-shedding,” says Eskom.
To make matters worse, Eskom on Sunday then announced that Unit 2 at Koeberg had tripped and that it was working on bringing it back to operation.
Everything’s made up and the stages don’t matter
The strange thing is, how did Eskom manage to supply more electricity over some weekends in 2023 if some of these problems have existed since last year? Of course, Eskom also blames “other generation challenges” for the lack of electricity in most of its statements.
Now and then, the utility adds details about the high level of vandalism on its infrastructure as the alleged corruption at the utility remains an ever-present elephant in the room. At this stage, it won’t seem that strange if Eskom starts blaming load shedding for its lack of electricity.
Meanwhile, the new Minister of Electricity says load-shedding is expected to worsen during winter. Just when we thought his presence would make a difference.