South Africa nears an ignoble record: 100 days of blackouts

By Prinesha Naidoo

South Africa is nearing 100 consecutive days of rolling blackouts, the longest stretch yet, with more to come as its electricity crisis deepens. 

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state-owned company that produces almost all the electricity in Africa’s most industrialized economy, has imposed blackouts daily since Oct. 31, making Monday the 99th straight day of outages, according to Bloomberg calculations. Power rationing, known locally as loadshedding, is needed to protect the nation’s grid from collapse when Eskom’s aging and poorly maintained and mostly coal-fed plants can’t meet demand, which happened on 200 days over 2022. 

Outages have afflicted the country for about 15 years and are likely to continue for at least two more as Eskom overhauls its electricity-generating fleet. It’s trying to lift its energy availability factor â€” a measure of how much capacity can be used — to 70% by March 2025 from about half currently, and needs an additional 4,000 to 6,000 megawatts of generating capacity to end the blackouts.

The South African Reserve Bank has reduced its economic growth forecast for this year to 0.3%, from 1.1% previously, with Governor Lesetja Kganyago saying power disruptions will shave 2 percentage points off output growth in 2023. Economists in a Bloomberg survey see a 45% chance of the nation slipping into recession this year. 

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