Following an emergency board meeting on Saturday 17 September during the Phase 5 load shedding, Eskom will on Monday begin urgently purchasing additional power from existing independent power producers.

The announcement was made during an emergency media briefing by Eskom Group Chief Executive Andre de Ruyter on Sunday morning. It hopes to access about 1,000MW from existing independent power producers such as Sasol and Sappi, and hopes to have it online within a week or two.

Read: Eskom on edge as outages hit record levels again

The utility was forced to ramp up load shedding to Stage 6 around 4:00 a.m. Sunday after two more coal-fired generating units shut down.

This means that South Africans are without electricity for about a third of the day.

Eskom’s chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said it had to top up its emergency reserves while staff worked to bring the units back into service, and a high level of load shedding was expected for much of next week.

Eskom’s internal system on Sunday morning, showing units that were out of service due to breakdowns. Image: Moneyweb

At the time of the media briefing, Eskom had 7,062MW of generating capacity under planned outages and 15,630MW unavailable due to outages. The expected evening peak demand was 26,399 MW, leaving a shortfall of 5,282 MW.

While Eskom hoped to top up its emergency pumped storage dams by Monday morning, diesel fuel levels at the Ankerlig Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) were at just 32%. Due to the logistics of transporting diesel by road, this was not expected to resume until later next week. Diesel fuel levels at another OCGT plant, Gourikwa, were at 85%.

Oberholzer explained that depleting the 6,000 MW of emergency reserves could lead to a complete blackout if they are not available when the system needs them.

Eskom previously said it had already used up its entire diesel budget for the year to the end of March 2023. According to Oberholzer, CFO Kalib Kassim has allocated an additional 550 million rand despite Eskom’s liquidity problems.

De Reiter assured that there is no indication that the current generation deficit is caused by sabotage.

The CEO added that Eskom has asked municipalities to identify non-essential loads that can be turned off, and will engage organized business to further save energy, such as limiting the hours of lighting, heating and air conditioning.

He urged households to use electricity sparingly and to turn off unnecessary electrical appliances, especially during the morning and evening rush hours.

Isabel Fick, director general of the system operator’s office, said that if the load-shedding increases beyond the 8 stages stipulated by the national standard, the system operator will instruct all provinces to stop further load-shedding.

De Ruyter said the load shedding is being done to prevent such a situation and a national blackout.

Oberholzer described how multiple units broke over the past two weeks — more than 40 a week — to bring the utility to its current crisis. He said coal-fired power plants are operating at over 90% utilization, while the international standard is 65%. The units are back in service, but some are breaking down again.

Currently, ten generator units with a total capacity of 6,000 MW are operating with known defects, of which 2,000 MW are at high risk of failure.

Eskom hopes to bring 18 9,000MW units back into service in the next five to six days, Oberholzer said. “All hands on deck to make it happen.”

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