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Power Cuts Lessen Despite Winter Fears

Power supplies have stabilised in recent days despite fears of a dark winter, but experts warn its creaking electricity grid remains volatile.

Scheduled outages are now halted during the daytime, giving badly battered businesses a reprieve.

Having endured up to half the day without electricity in recent months, South Africans are now only starved of power for slightly over two hours a day.

But energy expert Lungile Mashele said that the country’s electricity generation capacity was still “very volatile”.

“It’s not the most reliable system,” she told AFP, referring to the country’s 14 predominantly coal-powered stations, most of which are old and poorly serviced.  

From supplying only about half of power that it should, Eskom last Friday suddenly went over “the 60 percent mark of energy availability”, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the Minister of Electricity said.

But scepticism still runs high over power cuts, which are euphemistically called load-shedding.

On Saturday, Eskom announced it would suspend power cuts “until further notice”, but backtracked three hours later saying that power cuts would resume immediately.

But according to Mashele, it was possible there was more electricity because Eskom slowed down its “planned maintenance…(which) brings huge units back online”.

In addition, large consumers, such as mines, “typically” decrease production to avoid high tariffs that are traditionally imposed during the southern hemisphere winter, which starts in June.

Power cuts have hammered the economy, with the International Monetary Fund projecting real GDP growth for this year to be at meagre 0.1 percent.