Eskom says South Africans should brace themselves for escalating power cuts this week.

Ramping up to stage 6 means the utility has removed 2,000 megawatts of power from the grid.

Stage 6 blackouts equates to at least six hours without power per day, possibly in two-hour cycles.

The last time South Africans endured stage six power cuts was two years ago.

The grid has been under pressure for the past week, with the power utility implementing rolling power cuts at short notice.

This weekend, South Africans woke up to advanced power cuts with scheduled outages three times a day.

Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said that stage 6 power cuts will persist, with heavy rolling blackouts expected for the week.

He said that stage 6 would persist until sufficient generating units are returned to service.

“Looking ahead, stage six load shedding will remain implemented until sufficient generating units are returned to service and those levels have been replenished. We have not yet been able to make a firm commitment as to when we will be able to ease the current stage of load shedding. I can assure the public of South Africa that the system is monitored closely,” Oberholzer said.

Eskom said that its teams were working around the clock to avoid a total system collapse by implementing stage 6 power cuts.

The utility said that it hoped to bring 18 units which were the equivalent of 9,000 megawatts back to service in the next five to six days.

It’s blamed the failure of additional units at some of its power stations for the supply shortfall.

Oberholzer said that while staff were working to return units to service, the utility had to replenish its emergency reserves.

“The system has been under pressure over the past week. This has caused us to run our reserves – our diesel and our dams – very hard and we are now at a situation where we urgently need to replenish these reserves in order to maintain an adequate safety buffer as we are required to do by the grid code.”

Eskom has reminded South Africans that power cuts are implemented as a last resort to protect the national grid and has vowed to update the nation on any changes.