Cutting power is painful, says Eskom

2014-03-07 17:46

Opting for staggered power cuts was a painful move, but unavoidable to save the electricity system, Eskom CEO Brian Dames has said.

“The decision was necessary to avoid a total blackout,” he told reporters in Joburg.

He said a total blackout would have had significant consequences for the South African economy.

Eskom was committed to providing early warnings, and the warning yesterday was the earliest possible, he said.

“This was the earliest we could communicate as the system status changed rapidly on the morning of March 6.”

He said the system was fine on Wednesday evening, but at 6am the next day an emergency was declared.

This was because of wet coal – received from open-cast mines – caused by rain.

Additional units were lost in various major power stations, he said.

“At the time, we had very limited generation available from our reserves in Drakensberg and Palmiet [pumped storage schemes].”

At 8am [on Thursday], there was still a power shortage, although all emergency reserves had been used.

“To manage the frequency levels and to protect the national system from total collapse, controlled load shedding was implemented immediately and unavoidably at short notice.”

He said all necessary steps were taken to ensure the system did not collapse.

He apologised to the public for the inconvenience caused by the power cuts. These had ceased countrywide from 10pm yesterday.

“If there are still any ... robots not working, or power cuts, it’s because of local suppliers.”

Eskom was in a better position now to deal with emergencies than in 2008. “[The] communication system was inadequate then; now, we have a weekly update on how the system is doing.”

He said Eskom regularly exercised its operational readiness with stakeholders.

“We are working hard to make sure that we do not get into the power cut situation.”

He said the system would remain tight, and the risk of emergency conditions developing could be expected through March and April.

The DA today demanded that R31 million awarded to Eskom’s directors in bonuses be returned to Treasury immediately.

“The money can be used to purchase generators for emergency services, such as hospitals, affected by the rolling blackouts,” DA MP

Natasha Michael said in a statement.

Eskom’s annual financial statement showed nine members of its board of directors received the money in performance share bonuses last year.

“They neither deserve, nor can they reasonably justify, awarding themselves bonuses for good performance.”

Michael said that when board members did not deliver, they deserved warnings, not bonuses.

The SA Photovoltaic Industry Association suggested the country needed photovoltaic solar power urgently to deal with the high electricity demand.

“Load shedding is completely unacceptable,” said the association’s chairperson Davin Chown.

He said conditions in South Africa were ideal for photovoltaic power systems, which take energy from sunlight and convert it to electricity.

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