The biggest power outages on record have already put a strain on people and companies in South Africa, according to the government-run power firm Eskom, which said on Wednesday that it will execute “Stage 6” scheduled power cutbacks until further notice.
The utility, which runs a fleet of malfunctioning, old coal-fired power plants, claimed that power outages at several of its units were becoming more frequent.
For more than ten years, Eskom has battled to supply electricity to the most industrialised country in Africa.
Up to 6,000 megawatts (MW) must be removed from the national system during stage 6 power disruptions. The majority of South Africans will experience daily power outages of at least six hours due to the highest amount of power cuts ever applied in the country.
“This is due to a high number of breakdowns since midnight, as well as the requirement to strictly preserve the remaining emergency generation reserves,” Eskom said in a statement.
Since taking office as president in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa has worked to improve Eskom’s efficiency, but his administration has made little headway, infuriating the public.
His administration has indicated that it will contribute to the utility’s 400 billion rand ($23.05 billion) debt, but it has not yet made any firm commitments regarding the timing or quantity.
Eskom issued a warning last month that it will have trouble meeting demand for electricity in the coming year.
On November 4, President Ramaphosa says municipalities and government departments owe Eskom approximately R50 billion in debt. The president conducted his final quarterly question and answer session in the National Assembly for this year.
He says a multi-disciplinary revenue committee was established to ensure that this debt by municipalities and other government organs to Eskom is paid.
The debt owed stands at more than R50 billion and the executives who qualified for free electricity since April when a new ministerial handbook was issued and since withdrawn, must pay, however, the amount is still being determined.
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