It seems that it never rains but pours for Africa’s most advanced economy. The South African power utility (Eskom) specifically has faced countless problems in fulfilling its mandate of providing electricity to all corners of the country. This time, there were fears that, due to the breakdown that occurred at the nuclear power plant in Koeberg, this would lead to serious power cuts across the vast country for the whole week.
On Sunday evening, coupled with the countless problems it has been facing with its aging fleet of power plants, its nuclear reactor which has been providing a reliable source of electricity, which is situated near Cape Town, recently experienced problems. This was caused by one of the transformers developing a fault, which in turn resulted in lost capacity of close to 930 megawatts of electricity. This, according to Eskom, put an extra strain on an already constrained grid. They, however, hastened to add that the reactor itself was not affected and that the transformer was quickly fixed and brought back onto the grid. There was concern that it would take some time for the capacity that had been lost to be regained. As a result, the statement by the power utility warned that the system will be continuously constrained for the rest of the week. “The system is extremely constrained today and for the rest of the week,” said the statement, adding that “any extra load or faults in the system may result in the need to go into load shedding.”
South Africa has faced a number of problems regarding the provision of electricity in the recent past and this has resulted in conflicts at many levels. Political leaders have blamed the country’s legacy of apartheid while civic society has placed the blame squarely at the feet of the ruling African National Congress who have a direct responsibility of appointing the leadership of Eskom. What has fueled the debate is that there have been conflicting reports from the leadership of Eskom regarding the state of the country’s electricity. There have been further furious debates as the ANC administration attempts to invest in more nuclear power plants with the detractors arguing that the country cannot afford the cost involved.