South Africa’s Eskom scales back power cuts, system still vulnerable

Men walk past electricity pylons as they return from work in Orlando, Soweto township, South Africa March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s state utility Eskom scaled back power cuts on Friday after bringing some generating units back online, while reiterating that the system remained vulnerable due to breakdowns.

The latest round of power cuts across South Africa is a reminder of the fragility of heavily indebted Eskom and how its unreliability has frustrated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to lift economic growth.

Eskom said it planned to reduce national grid supplies by 1,000 megawatts (MW) on Friday, down from 2,000 MW previously.

“This is as a result of an improved prognosis for the day as some generating units return to service,” the company said in a statement.

“Our pumped storage schemes have been sufficiently replenished, and we continue to work to improve on the levels of diesel at our open cycle gas turbine generators.”

Eskom has often relied on emergency reserves like pumped storage facilities and open-cycle gas turbines to meet power demand as it struggles with repeated problems at its coal-fired power stations.

Eskom said 12,098 MW of its 44,000 MW nominal capacity was offline on Friday due to breakdowns.

“Owing to inadequate maintenance over a number of years, the system remains vulnerable to unplanned outages or breakdowns,” Eskom said.

Power cuts by Eskom last year pushed Africa’s most industrialised economy to the brink of recession.

Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Kim Coghill

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