South Africa’s ailing state power utility on Friday implemented the highest level of electricity rationing after its coal supply was dampened by rain.
Debt-ridden Eskom, which generates 95 percent of the country’s electricity, is reeling from years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma’s government.
Despite multiple government bailouts, its poorly maintained coal-fired power stations struggle to keep up with the electricity demands of Africa’s most industrialised economy — forcing it to implement rolling blackouts known as loadshedding.
“Eskom has lost additional generation units this morning,” said a company statement on Friday, one day after announcing a new bout of power cuts.
“And with units not having returned to service as scheduled,” it added, “loadshedding (needs) to move up from stage 2 to stage 4”.
The highest stage calls for 4,000 MW — just under 10 percent of Eskom’s maximum effect — to be cut from the national power grid.
Eskom blamed days of “incessant rain” in several parts of the country.
“We are beginning to experience coal-handling problems at a number of our power stations as a result of wet coal,” said the statement.
“If the weather persists, we are likely to implement loadshedding through the weekend.”
Rolling blackouts in February and March plunged businesses, homes and schools into darkness for hours on end.
Loadshedding resumed again in October, when the government unveiled plans to restructure the company and orient it towards more renewable sources of energy.
South Africa has been struggling to salvage state-owned companies from the damage caused by Zuma’s administration.
Its national airline was placed under a business rescue plan this week to avoid its total collapse.
Meanwhile, Eskom has accumulated $30 billion (27 billion euros) of debt and seen 10 CEOs quit in the space of a decade.
The latest left in July citing “unimaginable demands” of the job.
Credit ratings agencies have warned Eskom’s situation could cause downgrades to South Africa’s sovereign credit rating and embarrass President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to restore the economy after his re-election this year.