SOUTH African consumers, bracing themselves for falling temperatures, on Thursday also faced the unwelcome prospect of more load shedding as Eskom warned that some of its generating units were unavailable.
In a separate statement, the power utility also hinted at the possibility of a tariff adjustment next year.
Eskom said it had begun scaling down maintenance to prepare for winter, but demand was rising at peak times. With Thursday’s demand expected at 33,311MW and capacity of only 32,500MW, it appealed to the public to cut consumption by at least 10%.
If demand did not decrease, load shedding would be the “last resort to protect the national grid from a total shutdown”.
Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger could not be reached on Thursday. But Shaun Nel, spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG) — which represents some of South Africa’s biggest industrial consumers — said the group estimated that unplanned outages were currently about 9,000MW, more than double Eskom’s target.
This was across all the power utility’s fleet of power stations.
The level of unplanned outages was a concern as the power utility had announced that it was doing maintenance, Mr Nel said.
Yet the EIUG had seen an increase in plant failures.
Earlier, Eskom said the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) was expected to rule later this month on an adjustment to electricity tariffs that would take place on April 1 next year. Eskom was granted an 8% annual tariff increase for five years from April 1 last year, but the tariff may be adjusted sooner depending on an over-or under-recovery in the regulatory clearing account.
“Customers could experience an increase or decrease in the price of electricity as a result thereof,” the power utility said.
For some time the utility has had to rely on its diesel-fired power stations, much more than expected because of delays in bringing the first units of its first new power station, Medupi, on stream. The cost of diesel has also risen because of global oil prices and the weakening of the rand against the dollar.
Last month Mr Etzinger said the last tariff hike of 8%, which was half the increase Eskom had requested, would result in a R225bn revenue shortfall over five years and result in various cost-cutting measures.
Mr Nel said Eskom’s increased use of diesel generators and reduced revenue from lower power sales was prompting it to try to claw back some of its costs. The EIUG had been concerned that the 8% hike Nersa granted would not be enough and had argued that industry would be prepared to accept a 10% rise.
The EIUG did not know what Eskom was proposing to Nersa by way of tariff adjustments next year, but “we anticipate a couple of percentage points”, Mr Nel said.