On Friday, Eskom encountered a number of technical issues which put the system under severe constrain and were forced to implement stage 1 load shedding across South Africa over the weekend, Eskom said in a statement.

An urgent plea to large power users and residential consumers to reduce their electricity usage was issued due to the utility’s low reserves of water and diesel needed to generate electricity, Eskom said in a statement.

These problems follow the recent crisis at Mejuba power plant in Mpumalanga where a coal silo storing 10 000 tonnes of coal collapsed.

It was reported over the weekend that a second crack in one of the silo’s had been identified but was being closely monitored, media reported.

In a response to Eskom’s warning on Friday, Professor Anton Eberhard from the University of Cape Town tweeted, ‘Power cuts next 3 days. Likely next 3 yrs like this!’

Eskom has a total generation output capacity of 41 194MW but with the current maintenance issues the plant is producing around 30 000MW, which is putting strain on the plant to meet high energy demands.

What each stage means:

Stage 1: The utility is short of 1 000MW

Stage 2: The utility is short of 2 000MW

Stage 3: The utility would be running at a deficit of 4 000MW

 The power system looks to be coping today with no scheduled blackouts for the day but this could change should consumers exceed the plant’s capacity at this stage.

Chris Yelland, energy expert, said that these outages could be the reality for South African’s for the next few years , since the two generating plants Medupi and Kusile are running almost 4 years behind schedule, the Saturday Argus reported.

These problems raise much concern and should highlight the importance of integrating various available energy resources into the energy mix to create a reliable power supply going forward.

With large deposits of gas discovered in the Southern African region, it is important to consider this resource as a future feedstock to reduce dependency on coal. Currently, gas only contributes 3 percent to South Africa’s energy mix.