Mabuza meets with Eskom Task Team to mitigate Level 3 load shedding
The worry is that Eskom won't be adequately prepared to handle an industrial reawakening.
Deputy President David Mabuza has ordered an urgent virtual meeting with the Eskom Task Team amid concerns that the power supplier may struggle with an increased demand during Level 3 lockdown.
Mabuza, whose recent absence from the public eye has been met with apprehension, has returned to the fray to assist with the government’s planned move beyond Level 4 lockdown. The deputy’s meeting with Eskom comes just days after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the nation, guided by a district-based model, would likely enjoy some regulatory reprieves before the end of May.
Industries lurch back into action
The move to Level 3 lockdown, as described by Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, will be based on regional assessments of readiness. The much-anticipated move will also see the bulk of industries returning to action. This is in line with Ramaphosa’s vision of a resurrected economy which has lay dormant and dysfunctional since lockdown was first instituted at the end of March.
The move to ease economic restrictions does, however, pose a unique problem for the country’s embattled power utility. Prior to the lockdown, Eskom was regarded as the single greatest threat to South Africa’s economic stability as a result of its dire operational failures.
Plagued by mismanagement, crumbling infrastructure and a disastrous maintenance programme, the power supplier struggled to keep the country’s lights burning. Rotational load shedding, at various stages, became a staple of everyday life.
Will there be load shedding at Level 3 lockdown?
While the local COVID-19 outbreak plunged most sectors of the country into turmoil, it afforded Eskom an opportunity to conduct vital repairs to aging power plants and infrastructure. Furthermore, the swift decrease in demand, as a result of the economic shutdown, lightened Eskom’s burden of supply.
The current worry is that Eskom may not have done enough to prepare for an en masse industrial re-entry and that, as gears of production return to the grind, the demand for power may exceed the capacity for supply.
A statement issued by government to announce the meeting between Mabuza and the Eskom Task Team, noted:
“With more sectors of the economy likely to open due to the varied imminent stage three lockdown, as announced by President Ramaphosa, it is essential to ensure that the power supply will be ready and adequate to handle the increased demand placed on the grid by the economic activity.
The winter season calls on the Task Team to plan for the increased power demand for industry as certain sectors open up, and for households as citizens are urged to stay at home to avoid the spread of Coronavirus.”
Level 4 “electricity supply restrictions”
Recent power restrictions in Gauteng, implemented to “safeguard assets”, doesn’t bode well for the country’s electrical prospects. Eskom recently announced that “peak usage” during Level 4 lockdown, which holds serious industrial restrictions, had challenged its capacity to supply.
The power utility added that illegal connections continued to endanger the stability of the electrical grid.
Mabuza is expected to address the Eskom Task Team on Friday 15 May.