S.Africa power firm denies crisis, despite rolling blackouts
Embattled South African state energy provider Eskom denied Monday it was in crisis despite rolling electricity blackouts that have cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars.
“There is no crisis at Eskom,” said chief executive Tshediso Matona, announcing that supply would remain tight until the country’s two new mega-power stations started delivering electricity into the grid.
The country has been hit by the worst power cuts since 2007, which the metals and engineering sector estimates has cost them half a billion dollars alone.
For consecutive nights swathes of Johannesburg have been cloaked in darkness, with traffic lights out and deserted streets giving a post-apocalyptic feel.
The power shortages are expected to last until March, the end of the South African summer.
Eskom generates more than 95 percent of the country’s electricity and relies on its ageing coal stations for supply.
Construction at the coal-fired Medupi power station with a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts started in 2007.
But work at the facility in the north of the country has been marred by delays, including strikes.
The latest deadline for is first unit had been December 24.
“We may not meet the target, and could see Medupi coming online in early January,” said Matona.
“We expect to see full power production from Medupi within six months thereafter.”
In September, the government announced a fresh cash injection for the firm, saying it would also raise additional debt of about $4.5 billion, above its original plan of $2 billion.
The increasing power shortages has seen South Africa unveil plans to build nuclear power plants, looking to China, Russia and France for expertise.
Power constraints in Africa’s second biggest economy are regularly cited as one of the factors hitting growth.