There are fresh allegations that increased load-shedding, which hit stage 6 last week, is caused by sabotage and is a manufactured problem.
On 10 February, Eskom announced that it had implemented Stage 6 load-shedding until further notice.
“Despite returning two generating units to service over the last 24 hours, two generating units were also taken offline,” Eskom said.
“This, combined with the need to replenish the pumped storage dams, necessitated the implementation of Stage 6 load shedding from midnight until further notice.”
Eskom explained that unplanned outages were at 17,798MW of generating capacity, with a further 6,553MW out of action due to planned maintenance.
The escalation to Stage 6 load-shedding came shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation the worst days of load-shedding were behind us.
“We are on track to resolve the most important constraints on economic growth by stabilising our energy supply and fixing our logistics system,” he said in his State of the Nation address.
“We set out a clear plan to end load-shedding, which we have been implementing with a single-minded focus through the National Energy Crisis Committee.”
He added that they have delivered on their commitments to bring substantial new power to the grid through private investment. “It is already helping to reduce load-shedding,” he said.
“Through all of these actions, we are confident that the worst is behind us, and the end of load-shedding is finally within reach,” Ramaphosa said.
However, within hours of Ramaphosa’s speech, Eskom increased load-shedding to stage 4 after taking down two generating units for repairs.
Many South Africans were already angry about Ramaphosa singing the government’s praises despite the country falling apart. The increased load-shedding aggravated their anger.
Ramaphosa and the ANC looked like fools, with many commentators pointing to The President living in an alternative reality to ordinary South Africans.
ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula responded that Stage 6 load-shedding was clear sabotage. He called for extra security measures to prevent it from happening again.
Energy expert Mthunzi Luthuli said many experts believe that heightened load-shedding is a manufactured problem.
“It is a manufactured problem to justify bringing the private sector into the electricity generation industry. That is what is happening,” he said.
He argued that if Eskom was working perfectly, there would be no reason to involve the private sector in power generation.
“To bring in the private sector, Eskom must be seen to be underperforming. This problem is actually deliberate.”
He highlighted that Eskom has 45,000 megawatt (MW) of installed capacity but fails to meet peak demand of between 25,000 MW to 26,000 MW.
“That problem is not an engineering problem – it is a political problem,” Luthuli said. “They want to fabricate a crisis to bring in their friends.
He added that the ANC government will not fix the problem as they are the ones behind the manufactured energy crisis.
Energy analyst Chris Yelland dismissed concerns about proactive sabotage, saying Eskom’s unreliable fleet is to blame for increased load-shedding.
“Generation units are randomly tripping, and boiler tube leaks continue to be a major problem,” Yelland said.
He said Eskom’s poor performance and increased load-shedding point to a situation that is not under control.
“For the electricity minister to say things are coming right is misguided. They do not know from one day to the next what load-shedding will be,” he said.
“These are unplanned outages. They are not predictable, and the Eskom generation fleet is performing really badly.”
Yelland said things like boiler tube leaks can be fixed. However, it takes the right skills and a long time to do it the right way.
“You have to shut down generation units to do these repairs. That means fewer units to meet demand and more load-shedding in the short term.”
However, while he did not think sabotage was behind the increased load-shedding, he raised concerns about Eskom’s operations.
Yelland said there are a number of very significant resources that are being “completely ignored” by Eskom to fix boiler tube leaks.
“Very competent and qualified welding companies, some award-winning, who can do the work are being sidelined,” he said.
“There is no good reason as to why these companies are being sidelined. It points to valuable resources not used to fix problems.”