UPDATE 2-South African power cuts worsen on cold weather, breakdowns

(Adds power cuts to continue throughout this week)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 2 (Reuters) – South African state power utility Eskom ramped up power cuts on Wednesday, as cold weather caused a spike in demand after many of its generating units had broken down.

Eskom’s struggles to power Africa’s most industrialised nation are one of the main obstacles to economic growth.

The company, which started implementing “stage 2” power cuts on Tuesday, increased them to “stage 4,” requiring up to 4,000 megawatts (MW) of power to be shed from the national grid.

It said 11,300 MW of its roughly 44,000 MW nominal capacity was offline because of unplanned breakdowns, adding to 5,040 MW on planned maintenance.

The power cuts will persist throughout the week, Eskom added.

Separately, the utility said in a presentation to a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the risk of power cuts would remain until after it had completed an 18-month maintenance programme.

Eskom’s gross debt increased to 488 billion rand ($29.3 billion) in March 2020, from 440 billion rand a year earlier, it added in the presentation, citing its pre-audited results for the 2019/20 financial year.

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