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South African Power Grid Collapse Averted Thanks to Lockdowns

  • Eskom says cumulative outages may have reached 50% of capacity
  • Utility expects new generation to ease pressure on the system
A restaurant stands closed at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront retail district in Cape Town, South Africa, on July 23, 2020.
A restaurant stands closed at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront retail district in Cape Town, South Africa, on July 23, 2020.Photographer: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg

A sharp drop in electricity demand as Covid-19 engulfed South Africa more than two years ago prevented unplanned breakdowns at the state-owned power company from snowballing to half of all capacity by this July, an event that may have caused the national grid to collapse.  

Instead, accumulated outages were most recently measured at almost 35% of capacity, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. showed lawmakers in a presentation on Wednesday. While there’s been a steady rise in such failures since March 2020, when South Africa entered an extended lockdown, none of the utility’s current scenario plans forecast a total blackout.