• Breakdowns at Eskom surpassed 18 000 MW on Tuesday morning – worse than in December, when stage 6 loadshedding was implemented. 
  • One senior Eskom engineer, with more than a decade at the utility, said the situation is the worst he has ever seen.
  • Eskom says outages are high due to additional planned maintenance, and units should return by Thursday afternoon to meet demand. 
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za. 

Outages at embattled power utility Eskom surpassed 18 000 MW worth of energy on Thursday morning, and one senior employee described the generating situation as the worst he has seen in more than a decade with the company.

Outages are now higher than they were on 9 December 2019 – when the utility implemented the up to then unheard of stage 6 loadshedding.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the level of unavailable generating equipment is due to higher than usual levels of maintenance, before the high-demand winter period.

Certain units should also return to service by Thursday afternoon to meet peak demand, Mantshantsha said. 

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Speaking to Business Insider South Africa on condition of anonymity, a senior Eskom engineer, with over ten years experience at the utility, said the situation "is the worst I’ve ever seen it." 

An internal generation memo, seen by Business Insider SA, shows unplanned outages were at more than 12 500 MW, and planned maintenance stood at 5 450MW worth of energy. 

The memo shows that the utility will have a shortage of 8 891.4 MW to meet Thursday's peak afternoon demand. 

Stage 4 loadshedding only results in savings of 4 000MW across the national grid, while emergency open gas turbines are able to provide a maximum of 3 000MW. 

This means that, as things stood in the morning, the utility will still have a shortage of 1891.4 MW to meet afternoon demand even at stage 4 rationing. 

However, according to the memo, Eskom expects roughly 2000 MW of generation capacity to return by Thursday afternoon. 

Also read: Gwede Mantashe is punting an Eskom plan that would see the government sell everything except high-voltage transmission lines

Even so, the grid remains constrained and loadshedding will continue into the weekend, Mantshantsha said.

“The situation is highly volatile and at any moment a unit can trip which would worsen the situation,” Mantshantsha told Business Insider South Africa.

“To have close to 6 000 MW in planned maintenance is not something we have done before,” Mantshantsha said, about maintenance before colder weather arrives.

Eskom's CEO Andre de Ruyter previously said there would be an increased likelihood of load shedding in the next 18 months as the utility undertook maintenance. 

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