Photo: Unsplash

Load shedding: R20 million to keep lights on for King Zwelithini memorial

Eskom confirmed that it cost over R20 million in diesel costs to power the grid during the four hours spent mourning the passing of King Goodwill Zwelithini on Thursday.


Photo: Unsplash

Eskom spent some R20 million to keep the lights on during the memorial service for King Goodwill Zwelithini on Thursday 18 March, when they decided to suspend load shedding to allow the Zulu nation to mourn the passing of its Monarch. 

A report by TimesLIVE revealed that in order to power the grid for the four hours from 10:00 until 14:00 that were scheduled for Stage 2 load shedding, the embattled power supplier had to burn more diesel than it usually would – at a cost of R500 000 an hour for each of the open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) used. 

R20 million spent to keep the lights on for four hours  

Speaking to TimesLIVE on Thursday, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said that nine open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) were run at full pace to keep the lights on by augmenting the regular supply. 

“To keep the lights on for these four hours, Eskom has had to supplement the supply by burning more diesel than it would have had to,” he said. 

“Between 9.45 and 14.15pm, to supplement supply Eskom ran five of its own OCGTs and four IPP [independent power producers] OCGTs. The average cost per OCGT is R500 000 an hour. Each OCGT produces 150MW of energy,” he said.

Eskom ‘playing a game’ with load shedding 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) demanded answers after Eskom pledged to suspend load shedding to “allow the nation to mourn” on Thursday, claiming that the fact that Eskom is able to make these decisions at a whim undermines the fundamental rationality behind load shedding. 

“By doing this, Eskom is essentially saying that load shedding can be switched on and off at a whim, like a game. This undermines Eskom’s own premise of load shedding and makes the concept wholly irrational,” said the DA’s Ghaleb Cachalia. 

“Surely if Eskom can find four hours to keep the lights on for the memorial service today, the entity can find the same reprieve for ordinary South Africans who are fighting for their lives in hospitals, and businesses battling to stay afloat because of the dual blow of COVID-19 and load shedding,” he said. 

It turns out, they could offer some reprieve for ordinary South Africans, and on Friday 19 March the power supplier announced that due to success in returning several generation units to service, load shedding would be suspended from 12:00

DA to submit Parliamentary questions  

Nonetheless, the DA still want answers, and said on Friday that “it is hard to find justifiable reasons behind why Eskom would suspend load shedding for a memorial service but fail to extend similar reprieve and courtesy to thousands of people who are fighting for their lives in hospitals and business that are suffering as a result of COVID-19 and load shedding.”

 The DA will submit parliamentary questions, to ascertain:

  • How Eskom arrived at the decision to suspend loadshedding for the memorial and what criteria was used; and
  • Under whose instruction was the suspension agreed to?