Eskom sets new load-shedding record

Eskom has implemented its longest uninterrupted streak of load-shedding since it first started rotational power cuts in 2008, according to data from EskomSePush.

The popular load-shedding tracking app posted a chart to Twitter showing the 15 longest load-shedding streaks to date, stating that Eskom had not suspended load-shedding in more than 450 hours.

The utility initially started its continuous bout of load-shedding on 8 September 2022, following intermittent power cuts in the preceding days when it experienced breakdowns at five of its power stations.

Tens of generating unit trips in the days that followed meant Eskom had to rely heavily on its 6,000MW of emergency generation capacity — consisting of diesel-powered open-cycle gas turbines and pumped-storage dams — to power through peak demand periods.

With waning reserves of diesel and water levels to keep these stations running, it was forced to escalate to stage 6 load-shedding early in the morning on Sunday, 18 September 2022.

Since then, the recovery in generating capacity has taken long, with Eskom initially unable to share specific timelines for lower load-shedding levels due to its fleet’s unreliability.

In the latest round of cuts, stage 4 has been the most frequent stage of load-shedding, tallying up 163 hours, followed by stage 5’s 120 hours and another 95 hours of Stage 3.

Stage 6 load-shedding lasted for 43 hours, while stage 2 was in effect for 38 hours.

The chart below, compiled by Twitter user @KrylikRSA, shows the top 15 longest streaks of load-shedding based on EskomSePush data.

Notably, the previous longest streak record was also “achieved” in 2022, when Eskom implemented load-shedding for just over 403 hours between 28 June 2022 and 15 July 2022.

That came after an unprecedented strike by Eskom employees over wage increases, which led to power stations being significantly understaffed due to stay-aways and intimidation of staff who weren’t on strike.

Before that streak, the most prolonged durations of continuous load-shedding lasted for less than half the time.

Notably, four of the other longest 15 streaks also occurred in 2022, which has been South Africa’s worst year of load-shedding by far.

Data from EskomSePush shows that as of 10:00 AM on 19 September 2022, Eskom had already implemented 1,637 hours of load-shedding in the year, equivalent to around 68 days.

The chart below shows the number of load-shedding hours each year since 2015.

Since then, another 215 hours of load-shedding had been implemented by 09:00 AM on Wednesday, 28 September 2022, putting the total at 1,852 hours and 77 days.

That compares with 1,153 hours over the entire 2021, the previous worst year of load-shedding.

The latest streak is set to outlast the previous records even further, as Eskom has predicted it would continue to alternate between stage 3 and stage 4 until at least Thursday, 29 September 2022.

The situation has led to President Cyril Ramaphosa cutting an international trip short to return to the country and reportedly meeting with the Department of Public Enterprises about a possible shake-up of Eskom’s board.

The department subsequently confirmed that public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan would reconstitute and restructure the board as some members’ terms had expired in 2021 and were subject to review.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter told The Sunday Times he would welcome a stronger board.

De Ruyter said the utility had long asked for new board members because the pressure had grown on the current directors due to several resignations.

“I will welcome knowledgeable new appointments,” De Ruyter said.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking government source said Ramaphosa’s cabinet ministers had called for the entire board and management to be given the boot.

Now read: How Eskom’s proposed price overhaul will impact Pretoria residents

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Eskom sets new load-shedding record