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Gordhan urges Eskom to immediately ease load shedding

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on Thursday urged Eskom’s management and board to get the country out of Stage 6 load shedding with immediate effect.

He made the call in a statement issued by the department, which is the ministry that Eskom reports to.

Read: Eskom extends Stage 6 load shedding till Friday

The embattled power utility escalated rolling blackouts from Stage 4 to Stage 6 on Wednesday citing a high number of breakdowns at several power plants since the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Eskom says while it currently has 4 984MW out on planned maintenance, another 19 052MW of capacity remains unavailable due to breakdowns.

Gordhan said he met with the power utility’s board on Wednesday.

“I have directed them to meet and act with a great sense of urgency in order to ensure that the management of Eskom gets the country out of level 6 load shedding with immediate effect,” said the minister.

“Power cuts are having a devastating effect on households and livelihoods, investment, and economic climate. This is totally unacceptable. The frequency of breakdowns is certainly attributable to some element of malfunction within the Eskom systems and possibly sabotage as well,” he added.

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“We have had to call on law enforcement agencies to show a stronger presence at all Eskom power stations. Those who are involved in nefarious activities, beware. We will not tolerate any activities whose purposes is not in the national interest,” said Gordhan.

“We apologise to the country about the impact and disruptions caused by load shedding and will keep the nation informed about the status of electricity.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Eskom says it will delay the start of the planned refuelling and maintenance outage of Unit 1 of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to allow the system to stabilise and recover some generation capacity.

The outage was initially set to begin on Wednesday (7 December) evening. It says it will now start on Saturday 10 December 2022, if the grid recovers.

“While Eskom is ready to commence with the outage, with the contractors and all the requisite resources on standby, grid stability is an important consideration prior to shutting down the Unit 1 reactor to commence the maintenance and refuelling outage,” says Sadika Touffie, acting chief nuclear officer.

“This is going to be a long but necessary outage – the first of its kind for Koeberg. Eskom has taken care to ensure no undue delays are experienced once the project gets under way.”

The utility says Unit 1 will be offline for approximately six months and anticipates that it will add more strain to the electricity supply system moving forward.

“This will be the 26th refuelling outage on Unit 1 since commissioning and will also see the replacement of the unit’s three steam generators as part of the long-term operation programme of the power station. The reactor pressure vessel head on this unit was replaced several years ago.”

Eskom says the Koeberg outages “are planned at times of the year when the impact on the overall electricity supply is minimised as far as possible”.

Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.

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