South Africans in the dark after power cuts

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A shopkeeper waits for customers in his candlelit fast food store during a load shedding electricity blackout in Cape Town April 15, 2015. South African power utility Eskom expanded rolling blackouts for a second straight day to the "Stage Three" level on Wednesday, meaning it needs to cut 4,000 megawatts from household and industrial consumers to prevent a grid collapse. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

South African power utility Eskom on Thursday warned of a second day of power cuts citing a number of generating units still out of service.

Photo from social media

On Wednesday Eskom imposed its first power cuts since March, highlighting the challenge facing President Cyril Ramaphosa in rescuing the state company.

Eskom said it would cut 2,000 megawatts (MW) of power from 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) until 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on a rotational basis across the country.

“Contingency measures have been put in place to manually feed coal to Medupi (power plant) whilst we look into a permanent solution to the coal conveyor belt failure at the station,” Eskom said.

“We have started receiving additional diesel supplies from the major oil service providers and as such we are comfortable that we can build the necessary diesel and water reserves to acceptable levels over the weekend.”

Late on Wednesday, it said some generating units have already returned to service and it expects more units to return to service over the next few days.

South Africa’s rand currency fell as much as 1% against the dollar on Wednesday after Eskom announced the cuts.

The announcement put more pressure on the country’s weak economy ahead of a review by Moody’s, the last of the big three credit rating agencies to have an investment-grade rating on South Africa.

Eskom produces more than 90% of South Africa’s electricity but has been grappling with technical faults at its fleet of mainly coal-fired power stations.

It is also grappling with a debt pile that stood at around 440 billion rand ($31 billion) as of March.

Ramaphosa has pledged 59 billion rand of support for Eskom over the next two years, on top of 230 billion rand in bailouts spread over the next 10 years. Officials say its operational losses mean Eskom will also have to take other measures to make it financially sustainable.

 

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