South Africa’s state power utility Eskom said on Wednesday it would implement “Stage 6” scheduled power cuts until further notice, putting further strain on people and businesses already grappling with the worst outages on record.
The utility, which operates an ageing fleet of faulty coal-fired power stations, said it was increasing the level of power cuts due to breakdowns at some of its plants.
Eskom has struggled to meet electricity demand in Africa’s most industrialised nation for more than a decade.
Stage 6 power cuts require up to 6,000 megawatts (MW) to be shed from the national grid. It is the highest level of power cuts ever implemented in South Africa and means at least six hours without power a day for most South Africans.
“This is due to a high number of breakdowns since midnight, as well as the requirement to strictly preserve the remaining emergency generation reserves,” Eskom said in a statement.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been trying to reform Eskom to make it more efficient since becoming head of state in 2018 but his administration has made slow progress, fuelling public frustration.
His government has said it will take on part of the utility’s 400 billion rand ($23.05 billion) debt, but it is yet to commit to a specific amount or timeframe.
Last month Eskom warned it would continue to struggle to meet power demand in the next year.