Eskom, S. Africa's Power Utility, Imposes Blackouts


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Thursday morning in South Africa, Eskom, the state-owned power utility which provides 95 percent of the country's energy supplies, declared a power emergency for the entire country. This is the fourth such emergency to be declared since the beginning of 2014. However, this marks the first time Eskom has had to resort to rolling blackouts, or load shedding, since 2008.

The energy crisis has come as a result of heavy rains in many of the coal-heavy regions of South Africa over the past week. Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba told South Africa's members of parliament that “Over the last week, Eskom depleted its dry coal stockpiles at some power stations due to the rainy weather conditions. This contributed to severe system constraints due to lower output as a result of wet and poor quality coal.”

Despite not being able to control the weather conditions, the South African MP's think that Eskom and the current regime are still to blame: “In South Africa we do have the ability to predict the weather correctly. Eskom blames the unfortunate state of affairs on the rain and weather, and this is not the first heavy rains we've had since 2008... Their failure borders on negligent administration of our energy sources and (they) are letting down this country,” stated Cope MP Nick Koornhof.

Current meteorological predictions put the chance of rain at 60 percent or above everyday until March 12, so the situation is not likely to improve much in the coming week.

Eskom has been working since 2008 to avoid situations such as the one South Africa is currently facing by investing 500 billion rand ($46.7 billion) to build three new coal-fired power plants. Construction of said plants has not gone to schedule, however. One of the biggest plants, Medupi, was scheduled to be on-line as of late last year but has suffered due to contract negotiations and multiple labor disputes.

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