Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter says the power utility could be forced to introduce stage 6 load shedding on Tuesday evening (28 June) due to a significant deterioration of its operations overnight.
In an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning, De Ruyter said that 10 operating units had been lost overnight with total unplanned losses sitting at 14,204MW.
This has been exacerbated by the ongoing wildcat strike which has led to associated losses of an additional 3,651MW due to coal and labour issues.
While Eskom is hopeful of bringing more units online by this evening, De Ruyter said that the risk of stage 6 power cuts is high. Stage 6 doubles the frequency of stage 3, which means outages will be scheduled over four-day periods for four hours at a time.
De Ruyter added that labour issues are ongoing at its power plants across the country, including a large number of employees who have been intimidated into staying at home, road blockages preventing the delivery of coal, as well as ongoing physical disruptions.
If the strike is resolved, the power utility still faces a significant backlog of maintenance, which means load shedding is likely to continue, he said.
Chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer stressed that, even at stage 4, Eskom is currently experiencing a deficit in power supply during the evening peak of about 1,400MW. A move to stage 6 would remove 2,000MW of demand from the grid, but Eskom would continue to operate on a thin margin during these times.
Peak hours are between 05h00 and 09h00 in the mornings and 16h00 and 22h00 in the evenings.