South Africa

Eskom sabotage could cause 2 stages of load-shedding

Eskom broken

Professor Hartmut Winkler from the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Physics said Eskom’s better performance since the start of winter could be the result of fewer instances of sabotage.

Experts have warned that South Africa could face a dark winter for months as cold weather increases household electricity demand.

However, the country has experienced less load-shedding during the first months of winter than during the first few months of the year.

Eskom attributed this to, among other conditions, lower demand, improved generation capacity, increased OCGT diesel deliveries, and warmer-than-usual weather.

However, the utility ramped up load-shedding this week, returning South Africa to stage 6 for the first time in a month.

This was attributed to prolonged high demand due to the colder weather and the failure of some generator units.

Winkler told SABC that it is still unclear how Eskom implemented lower load-shedding stages for so long.

He believes it is unlikely that the utility was able to “work out its technical capacity” and fix issues better than it had been able to previously.

“I don’t think that that would be the case. Eskom is extremely experienced, and you can’t turn around a massive organization like that in a matter of a few weeks,” he said. 

Rather, Winkler speculated that the lower load-shedding stages could be attributed to Eskom having experienced fewer instances of sabotage over the past few weeks.

“That could be because people were watching more carefully, or it could be for other reasons,” he said.

Winkler said sabotage does not account for all laid-shedding, but it does account for one or two stages, which is the difference in stages South Africa has seen over the past couple of weeks compared to the start of the year.

Andre de Ruyter Eskom
Andre de Ruyter Eskom

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter has been outspoken about the link between sabotage at the utility and load-shedding. 

Problems at Eskom’s power stations have repeatedly been linked to the utility losing between 1,000MW to 2,000MW of generation capacity – equivalent to two to three stages of load-shedding. 

For example, in June 2022, unlawful industrial action at various of Eskom’s power plants interrupted the utility’s operations, which caused 10 generation units to trip. 

This moved the country from stage 4 to stage 6 load-shedding.

In a statement, Eskom said this was due to “the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants”. 

This action refers to a wage strike started by Eskom workers following failed wage negotiations.

The strike was considered unlawful and unprotected industrial action because “the supply of electricity is an essential service, and workers are legally prohibited from withholding labour to achieve their purposes for a wage negotiation”.

Eskom and De Ruyter said the strikes prevented the utility from performing planned maintenance at the plants where they were taking place and were, therefore, worsening the country’s power crisis.


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