Load power ‘under control’, says minister

Henry

The Minister of Electricity maintains that his department is still in control of load shedding and that the current state of affairs is only the outflow of “finely managed risk”, which is essential for the termination of load shedding in the long term.

Phase 6 load shedding was reintroduced this past weekend, despite pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s assurance during his latest state of the nation address that the end of load shedding is in sight. Load power was downgraded to phase 5 at 12:00 on Sunday. Unforeseen power outages then stood at 17,595 MW.

Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said during a press conference on Sunday that higher phases of load shedding are a mere consequence of “finely managed risks” that Eskom is taking, by removing more units for planned maintenance from the system.

“In order to eliminate load shedding in the long run, it is necessary to carry out proper maintenance on a large scale now. However, the result is that we don’t have a buffer when a lot of units have to be taken out of the system at once due to unplanned errors,” he said.

In January and February, Eskom removed between 7,000 and 8,000 MW of generation capacity from the system, in order to carry out planned renovation. This is double the maintenance work done between June and November.

There was therefore very little back-up to fall back on, when one after the other units suddenly broke down in the past week. No less than nine units had to be removed from the system due to a leak in the boiler pipes, which resulted in a loss in generating capacity of 4,400 MW.

Two of these units have since been put back into operation, while the rest are expected to be repaired between Monday and Wednesday. According to Ramokgopa, Eskom wants to tackle the challenge with boiler pipes by talking directly with the designer of these parts and determining the cause of the problem.

Fikile Mbalula, the ANC secretary general, said on X on Saturday that “phase 6 load shedding is clear sabotage. Strong additional security is needed.”

Ramakgopa said that there are indeed some incidents that are being investigated, and that he will be able to say more about this once these investigations have been completed.

The minister also pointed out that phase 6 load shedding is still the exception rather than the norm, in that phase 6 has been introduced for “only” 16 days since September. Phase 2 has been introduced for 40 days since September, phase 3 for 61 days and phase 4 for 15 days.

He says the introduction of phase 6 load-shedding is in no way inconsistent with Ramaphosa’s message that the end of load-shedding is in sight. “We are making clear and good progress.”