Rolling blackouts are likely to be a daily occurrence in South Africa over the next few months, says Eskom.

Rolling blackouts are likely to be a daily occurrence in South Africa over the next few months, according to Eskom.

The South African utility says that the country’s reserve margin is so thin that any unplanned outage at its power plants creates a major systems issue. It started load shedding for the first time this year on 9th January and states that the system will remain tight throughout the summer.

In a presentation in Johannesburg, Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona told reporters that the firm’s efforts to keep the lights on over the last few years with a very low reserve margin had left it with a large maintenance backlog, which was in turn affecting plant reliability.

Over the last few months there has been a significant increase in unplanned maintenance and breakdowns that have further eroded generating capacity, said Matona.

Eskom says that it cannot "ignore the health" of its plants any longer but needs additional generating capacity in order to get its maintenance schedule back on track.

The utility is already depending heavily on open cycle gas turbine generating plants fuelled with diesel but the additional fuel costs are putting an increased strain on its balance sheet. It has announced plans for a health recovery plan and a diesel burn policy and is continuing to call on customers to reduce electricity consumption as much as possible.

Eskom has added over 6 GW of new generating capacity to its grid since 2004 and is planning to add a further 11 GW under its capacity expansion programme. The first 794 MW unit of the Medupi power plant project is due to start operating commercially in June 2015 and Eskom is also expecting to commission a 100 MW wind project in the first half of the year.

In 2016 the first unit of the 4 x 333 MW Ingula pumped storage hydropower plant is due to start operating, and in 2017 the first of six 800 MW units at the Kusile power plant is due on-line.