JOHANNESBURG, Nov 7 (Reuters) – South Africa’s struggling state power utility Eskom warned that power cuts would occur from 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Thursday until 5 a.m., as three of its generation units were down, leaving its reserve power too low.
Africa’s biggest and most energy-hungry economy has been hurt by sporadic power shortages this year, as Eskom grapples with financial and technical problems that are likely to take many years to resolve.
The utility’s woes are one of the biggest challenges faced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is racing to try to revive economic growth that has been moribund for several years.
“Our emergency reserves are now at critically low levels, and need to be replenished overnight in order to meet tomorrow’s forecasted demand in electricity,” Eskom said in a statement.
“Despite our best efforts we have to implement loadshedding this evening,” it said, adding that the risk of loadshedding on Friday also “remains high if generating units do not return overnight as scheduled.”
Power cuts in February and March pushed South Africa’s first-quarter growth into contraction, and Eskom’s deep structural problems mean they are likely to persist this year.
On Friday, Moody’s left South Africa on the brink of “junk” status after it revised the outlook on the country’s last investment-grade credit rating to “negative”.
Moody’s meanwhile pushed state power firm Eskom’s credit rating deeper into junk territory on Tuesday.
The government published a paper last week detailing a planned overhaul of the power sector, confirming the break-up of Eskom over the next three years and opening the industry up to more competition.
The paper confirmed plans to end Eskom’s near-monopoly over power supply, forcing it to compete with independent power producers to generate electricity at least cost.
But the plan faces opposition from unions and some senior members of the governing ANC.
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