South Africa's Eskom to reduce power cuts but long-term outlook bleak

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister of Electricity of the Republic of South Africa, has apologized to the country for intensified load shedding implemented last week.

During a media briefing on Monday, the minister sincerely apologized for Stage 6 load shedding that was implemented on Thursday (July 13), noting that this should not become the norm.

"I want to express our sincere and profuse apology for having taken you through a very difficult stage of intensive load shedding," he said, SA News reported.

Minister Ramokgopa pointed out that firstly, load shedding should not be acceptable and secondly, going towards the higher stage of load shedding shouldn't become a norm in the country again.

"If anything, that should constitute an extraordinary occurrence," he continued. "The intensity of load shedding that goes beyond Stage 4 is something that should be unacceptable and it's something that, to the degree that we can... we will do everything to avoid."

Looking at the silver lining in this situation, the minister said that the good news is at least two units are already expected back online, which will contribute 305 megawatts to the power grid.

Moreover, at least 12 generating units are expected to rejoin the power grid later this week, noting that those units will add around 5,438 megawatts.

He explained that the implementation of Stage 6 took place after energy company Eskom was able to provide improved performance, which created severe pressure on the power units.

"[This is] a reconfirmation of the fact that the grid remains vulnerable and susceptible to plummeting of availability of megawatts," he added. "Although we have seen a significant amount of reprieve over the 21 days."

Ramokgopa noted that the department is working towards ensuring that they reach a stage where they will be able to "build resilience, reliability of these units and also create an additional buffer so that as when these units fail... there's sufficient reserve margin that will allow us an opportunity not to engage in any stage of load shedding and/or any intensification of load shedding."

The minister further explained that Eskom is vulnerable to boiler tube leaks that cause unplanned failure of power units. This is the "persistent failure" that the energy company is facing across all the power stations in the country.

"In our conversation with Eskom's technical team, we said that we must just focus on this, and in my other conversations with leading universities in the country," he continued. "We tried to see if we can get people who studied this so that we are able to help the situation."

Ramokgopa added, "This is our albatross, and the majority of boiler tube leaks and the majority of the units that had failed and gone out are as a result of boiler tube leaks."

The minister said that they are dealing with a "twofold" task, noting that the first one includes ending load shedding in the shortest period of time while the second one is to create a buffer so that the next winter in South Africa will be easy on the citizens.