By Paul Burkhardt for Bloomberg
South Africa is headed for a record year of power cuts if the rate of station breakdowns fails to improve, particularly at coal-fuelled plants.
State-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said it will again ration electricity on Tuesday after various generation units were shut for repairs or didn’t return to service as expected. That means nationwide cuts will have occurred on seven of the 10 days in May so far, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Africa’s most industrialised nation was already on track to exceed the annual record for energy shed from controlled blackouts, a practice locally known as loadshedding that’s used to prevent the grid from a total collapse. There were 1,054 gigawatt hours cut through April versus 2,521 in the entire year earlier, itself a record, according to a report by the state-owned Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The crisis surrounding Eskom, which generates almost all the nation’s electricity including 80% from burning coal, causes disruption to both daily life in South Africa and economic activity. The ongoing outages have increased pressure on Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter, while government programs to build new generation have faced various delays.
Beyond the operational issues, the utility has a massive debt pile and the distraction of an ongoing reorganisation. Phillip Dukashe, Eskom’s group executive for generation, quit on Monday after 26 years at the company. Eskom and the government are also working on plans to utilize $8.5 billion of funding pledged at the COP26 climate summit with the aim of moving South Africa away from coal.
— With assistance by Rene Vollgraaff