Power utility Eskom has placed South Africa on a power alert, warning that load shedding may be necessary unless at least 10% voluntary savings can be achieved to manage demand.

“We have noted rising demand especially during peak hours as the cold weather sets in. Eskom is taking all necessary steps available to keep the lights on but we require partnership with our customers to ensure that we reduce electricity usage,” Eskom said in a statement.

“We are on track in terms of our planned maintenance schedule and have begun scaling it down to prepare for winter while also managing unplanned outages that add more pressure to an already tight system.”

Eskom will utilise all necessary emergency resources at its disposal, but should the demand not decrease, load shedding will be implemented as a last resort to protect the national grid from a total shutdown.

The power utility has also warned that South Africans might need to prepare themselves for another electricity rate hike. In a statement released on Thursday morning, Eskom confirmed that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) will announce at the end of this month whether consumers can expect another electricity tariff increase in 2015.

The regulator is currently conducting an evaluation on the expenses incurred by Eskom over the past three years, ending March 2013, by scrutinising Eskom’s regulatory clearing account (RCA).

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