Eskom expects load shedding to be over for the rest of December next week as most factories and heavy industries will close for the Christmas holidays.
The usual construction holiday for the construction industry also begins on Friday.
Jan Oberholzer, chief operating officer of Eskom, said on Tuesday by his spokesman, Dikatso Mothae, that there should be no load shedding next week, and the chances are also very slim that phase 8 load shedding will be achieved at all.
Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, meanwhile, has announced that he will issue a tender for information on urgent power generation options that could deliver power within the next three to 12 months.
He will also ask that independent generators whose projects have been approved in the fourth round of the government’s green energy program will start sooner, and that South Africans use more liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as an alternative power source.
This comes after full-scale panic has gripped South Africans since Monday afternoon when Eskom suddenly announced that it was moving from phase-4 to phase-6 due to a technical error at the Medupi power station at Lephalale in Limpopo.
But the rand weakened to R14.80 against the dollar on Tuesday from the previous day’s R14.67, and economists warn that in 2019 South Africa could end in recession if load shedding continues to disrupt economic activity. This could prompt Moody’s credit rating agency to downgrade South Africa to junk status, leading to higher lending costs and negatively affecting all consumers.
Although factories will close, the tourism industry can still be severely affected if load shedding continues, with the Tafelberg gliding track having to close on Tuesday due to problems with its reserve generator.
Municipal load shedding grants have so far only extended to phase 4 load shedding, and expanded grids have been published in a hurry. However, last year Eskom quietly prepared a grid for phase 8 in case of an emergency situation. This timetable was dusted off Monday night.
The error at Medupi was the power supply to the coal conveyor belt in the power plant that kicked off Monday afternoon, Eskom later confirmed. Eskom urged mining companies such as Harmony and Impala to cut their power demand.
Mothae conceded that the broad causes of the recent days’ power crisis are the years-long neglect of proper maintenance at Eskom’s obsolete coal-fired power stations.