Stage 2 load shedding from later today after 'major setback'

Eskom on Friday morning announced it suffered a major setback after losing additional generation capacity at Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo.

"Late last night, we lost Medupi 3, 4 and 5 due to coal and ash handling issues," Eskom said in a statement.

"This means that the power system has deteriorated further creating an additional shortage of about 1 500MW generation capacity. As a result we will be regrettable maintaining stage 2 load shedding for the greater part of today.

In order to "lessen the disruption" on matriculants who are writing exams this morning, stage 2 will only start after midday.

Stage 1 load shedding will be implemented from 09:00 to midday, and stage 2 will follow until 23:00.

The new problems with managing coal and ash at Medupi follow a breakdown in a conveyor belt that feeds coal to the power station. 

The 7km-long coal belt transported 4 000 tons per hour from Exxaro’s Grootegeluk mine to Medupi. The tail-end of the belt suddenly snapped and twisted on Saturday, with the weight of the coal damaging the machine. Eskom chair and acting CEO, Jabu Mabuza, said on Thursday evenig that the belt should be fixed by Wednesday. A spokesperson earlier told Fin24 that coal was now transported with bulldozers between the mine and Medupi.

Eskom has also blamed the current wave of power cuts, which began on Wednesday, on boiler leaks at six power-generating units. Some of these units are now online. Eskom's plants are on average 37 years old, which is contributing to the problems, Mabuza stressed on Thursday 

As some of the six problem units recovered and came online on Thursday, load shedding was downgraded to stage one. Last night, Eskom said it didn't expect any load shedding over the weekend.

But the new problems at Medupi cast doubt on whether Eskom will be able to avoid outages over the weekend.

Compiled by Helena Wasserman