30 days of light

South Africa’s struggling power utility Eskom has marked 30 straight days without imposing rolling power cuts, providing a spark of hope to an economy on the brink of recession.

To prevent the national grid from collapse, state-run Eskom has been forced to resort to controlled power outages known locally as “load shedding”.

“Eskom has not had load shedding for the past 30 consecutive days and none is anticipated for the day,” the utility said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The power system is expected to remain constrained but stable for the rest of the week with a low risk of load shedding,” it said.

The electricity situation has been helped by unseasonably warm temperatures the past few weeks and the start of the Medupi plant, South Africa’s first new power station in 20 years which has added 794 megawatts to the strained grid.

Power shortages are a key constraint to Africa’s most industrialised economy, which shrank by 1.3 percent in the second quarter, raising the risk of a recession if the decline continues this quarter.

“The chances of avoiding a recession are better if there is no or a lot less load shedding, so it is good news. Load shedding has been a shock to the economy,” said Christie Viljoen of NKC African Economics.

But Viljoen cautioned the economy may still not escape a recession.

“As soon as you lose momentum it takes time to get things going again,” he said.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said last week South Africa was not “out of the woods” yet, despite having had several days without power cuts.

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Ed Stoddard via Reuters