Eskom Restores Generator After South African Power Blackouts

South Africa’s state-owned power utility has restored one of two generators that went down during the peak demand period today, prompting the company to enforce rolling blackouts for the second time this year.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. started the countrywide scheduled cuts at about 6 p.m. after technical problems at generators at the Kendal and Duvha coal-fired plants, spokesman Andrew Etzinger said by phone. Kendal is the country’s largest electricity facility, with 4,116 megawatts.

“We have managed to get one of the generators back into service -- it will take time to come back to full load,” he said. “We needed to reduce load and this is expected not to last much beyond 7 p.m.”

Eskom declared stage 1 load-shedding, the local term for scheduled power cuts, enabling it to reduce supply to homes and businesses by 1,000 megawatts.

The utility has struggled to satisfy demand for power in Africa’s second-biggest economy in the last decade, with a lack of working generating capacity forcing Eskom to schedule rolling blackouts for the first time in six years in March to prevent the total collapse of the grid.

Eskom is spending about $50 billion in the five years through 2017 revamping old plants and building new ones to improve reliability of power supply.

Plant Delays

The first of six units of the coal-fired Medupi plant, a 4,764-megawatt facility that will be the world’s largest dry-cooled facility, will be synchronized by the end of the year, with commercial operation expected in the first quarter of 2015, more than two years after it was due to start.

The company is asking more industrial customers to cut use to prevent managed blackouts during peak demand periods, it said on June 5. Customers who are members of the Energy Intensive Users group, which includes the local units of companies including ArcelorMittal and Glencore Plc, will be targeted.

Eskom has an agreement with BHP Billiton Ltd. in which it can interrupt supply to the Hillside and Mozal aluminum smelters in South Africa, saving 2,000 megawatts.

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