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South Africa: load shedding will intensify in winter

South Africa: load shedding will intensify in winter
Eskom's electricity pylons snake up a hill in the suburbs of Johannesburg on ...   -  
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Denis Farrell/AP

South Africa

South Africans, who officially enter winter on June 21, will face a tough time in the coming months, state-owned power utility Eskom warned on Thursday, after it imposed 12-hour-a-day power cuts for months.

"It is going to be a tough winter," said Calib Cassim, the company's acting CEO, at a news conference in Johannesburg.

Eskom, which supplies the vast majority of the country's electricity, is burdened by a fleet of old and failing coal-fired power stations. The company is unable to supply the level of demand and the arrival of cold weather will increase demand and therefore the extent of load shedding, to avoid a collapse of the network.

A "total blackout is unlikely", however, Mr Cassim tried to reassure.

But "the winter will be very, very tight in terms of supply and demand," added Segomoco Scheppers, head of transmission at Eskom. "The winter outlook scenarios show that load shedding could intensify.

The coal-fired power stations that provide 80% of the electricity in Africa's most industrialised country are in a state of agony: too old, poorly maintained, with their budgets hijacked by corruption, they keep breaking down. The country has not had a day without a power cut since the Christmas period, in the middle of the southern summer.

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