South Africa was hit by power cuts on Thursday after a number of generating units broke down, forcing the struggling state power utility Eskom to cut up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of power from the national grid on a rotational basis.

Eskom’s troubles have become one of the biggest challenges for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is trying to revive growth in the country’s economy.

The company produces more than 90% of South Africa’s power but has struggled to keep up with demand, leading to nationwide power cuts that have deterred investment.

“The severe supply constraint being experienced has come about due to high levels of unplanned breakdowns that have exceeded the 10,500 MW limit,” Eskom said in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, Eskom said there were unplanned breakdowns of generating units with 12,300 MW capacity. It has now experienced a loss of additional generation.

The utility has a total of around 45,000 MW of generating capacity.

The power cuts would occur from 4 pm (1400 GMT) to 11 pm. (2100 GMT) in order to protect the power system from a total collapse, it said.

A week ago Eskom made a 1.3 billion rand ($88.39 million)profit in the six months to the end of September, thanks to higher tariffs during the winter months when demand is greater.

But the utility predicted a 20 billion rand loss for the full year, as electricity tariffs are lower in the summer season and spending on plant maintenance, debt repayments and salaries will rise.

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