South Africa Bears Fifth Day of Blackouts to Avert System Collapse

, Magazine

South Africa’s state-owned power utility implemented a fifth straight day of controlled blackouts Monday and will carry out more this week to prevent a total collapse of the electricity grid amid a shortage of capacity.

Businesses are empty and many roads are gridlocked in cities throughout Africa’s most industrialized economy as the power cuts — which take place blocks of roughly four hours each — cripple productivity. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which supplies almost all the power in the nation, is currently cutting 2,000 megawatts of supply and will double that from 9 a.m. through to 11 p.m., doing the same tomorrow, it said.

Eskom is seen as one of the biggest risks to the country’s economy, burdened by operational and financial woes stemming from years of mismanagement and massive cost overruns on two new coal-fired power stations that should have been completed in 2015.

Maintenance teams at Eskom“are working round the clock to return generation units to the electricity system,” the Johannesburg-based producer said in an emailed statement. The cuts are “no cause for alarm as the system is being effectively controlled,” it said, adding that during stage 4 loadshedding, when 4,000 megawatts of demand are taken off the grid, about 80 percent of the nation’s demand is being met.