Eskom extends emergency measures to avoid blackouts

2013-11-20 13:25

State-owned power utility Eskom has asked its biggest customers to cut back use by at least 10% for a second day in a bid to avoid blackouts in cities.

The step extends emergency measures announced yesterday that caused the rand to weaken against the dollar and the platinum price to rise after the utility lost generating units.

It followed warnings by Eskom last week and yesterday of tight supply.

“The outlook for today is more favourable than yesterday, but our reserve margins remain low and therefore we are still vulnerable,” spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said.

“As a precautionary measure, we kept the emergency declaration in place.”

The utility is spending R500 billion to replace aging equipment and add plants to avoid a repeat of 2008 blackouts that halted mines for five days and paralysed factories in the continent’s biggest economy.

Eskom, which produces about 85% of its power from coal, said about 27% of its 41 900MW generating capacity was out for maintenance earlier this week. While the targeted surplus is at least 2 000MW, it was forecast to be just 400MW yesterday, Etzinger said. Capacity may exceed demand by 1 000MW today, he said.

“This is an optimistic scenario,” Etzinger said. “It is based on plants returning to service from maintenance and that we don’t see additional trips at our power stations.”

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