South Africans will see Eskom power cuts return in May, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
Eskom’s head of power generation Bheki Nxumalo told the Sunday Times that power cuts would “most likely” resume once the national lockdown is lifted in May.
These cuts would then continue until August 2021.
Energy analysts quoted in the report said that while the national lockdown has reduced the demand for electricity, it has only allowed Eskom to conduct “low-level and routine repairs”.
Parts needed to conduct maintenance, such as turbines and controls systems, have also been difficult to procure thanks to global restrictions on production and trade.
“The global lockdowns have also prevented Eskom from bringing in specialised engineers to work on the equipment,” stated the report.
Eskom confirmed that it has not been able to conduct the “deep-cycle maintenance” which needs to take place. This maintenance will only start after the lockdown is over, and is expected to run until August 2021.
“The maintenance needed is the kind where massive boiler and turbine components are replaced, especially at Kusile and Medupi power stations,” said Eskom.
“Only when the design defects at the Medupi and Kusile power stations have been corrected are we most likely to see the end of load-shedding.”
Impact on economy
University of Johannesburg energy economist Johane Dikgang stated in the report the expected load-shedding will take place “at the worst possible time”.
“Businesses have already been wiped out. This will be the kiss of death for those who have barely managed to survive the lockdown.”
Efficient Group economist Dawie Roodt recently told MyBroadband that between 100,000 and 200,000 South African businesses could be shut down permanently due to the impact of COVID-19.
He estimated that 1 million jobs could be lost in South Africa in 2020, with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak taken into consideration.
Eskom was implementing load-shedding at regular intervals in the country before the national lockdown started.
As recently as 11 March, stage 4 load-shedding was started due to a fault on the turbine section of Eskom’s Koeberg Unit 1.
Eskom advised South Africans at the time that the stage of load-shedding may change at short notice because its ageing fleet was “constrained, unpredictable, and vulnerable”.
Eskom also stated in March that its maintenance plan must be supported by the government or South Africa could expect “regular blackouts from power cuts of 8,000 megawatts by mid-2021”.