World News

South Africa’s Eskom to end power cuts late on Sunday

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s struggling state utility Eskom said on Sunday it would end power cuts at 11 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) and that it did not expect to implement power cuts on Monday.

Eskom had planned to cut up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) from the national grid until 0300 GMT on Monday.

The cash-strapped electricity firm is battling to keep the lights on in Africa’s most industrialized economy because of repeated breakdowns at its fleet of coal-fired power stations.

Eskom executives have blamed the breakdowns on a lack of critical mid-life maintenance at older plants, and design flaws on the mammoth Medupi and Kusile projects.

The company said in a statement it would end the power cuts earlier than planned because it had replenished water levels at its pumped storage facilities and conserved diesel at its open-cycle gas turbines.

The latest power cuts, which began late on Saturday, came as a surprise as power demand is weak at this time of the year.

Many South African businesses are still closed after the Christmas and New Year public holidays.

Eskom is rushing to bring back online some generating units from repairs and maintenance. From Monday many people will return to work and power demand will rise.

Around 13,000 MW of Eskom’s 44,000 MW nominal generating capacity was offline as of 1900 GMT on Sunday because of plant breakdowns. That was a lower level of outages than in recent days, but it still leaves the power system at risk of “load-shedding”, a local term for power cuts.

“Should there be a significant shift in plant performance and an increase in unplanned breakdowns, load-shedding could be implemented at short notice,” Eskom said.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Kim Coghill and David Evans)