Brace for power outages in summer

2011-07-21 00:00

WHILE the electricity supply in South Africa remains tight this winter, the real threat to supply will surface in the summer when key maintenance projects at Eskom power stations are undertaken in preparation for the winter of 2012.

So says Colin Openshaw, product development specialist in Eskom’s integrated demand management division.

Openshaw delivered the keynote address at a seminar on “Energy Saving in Industry and Mining” held in Durban yesterday.

The seminar was hosted by the Mining & Industrial Energy Optimisation (MIEO) chapter of the Southern African Association for Energy Efficiency. The MIEO is facilitated by Eskom.

Openshaw told the guests that energy demand in South Africa rose 1,8% year-on-year or 1 000 megawatts (MW) in the first quarter of 2011, compared with an anticipated growth rate of two percent for first quarter of 2011.

The year-to-date energy demand growth rate in the country is 1,54%, year-on-year.

“We are still managing a tight system. We will remain on alert as we build new capacity, especially in the period starting five months from now and ending two years later,” Openshaw said.

“Basically we are fine for this winter, but the risk for the summer months is there. Energy efficiency is critical for the winter months [next year].”

The year-on-year energy demand in 2010 already reached the 2007 level, having grown about four percent year on year in 2010.

The overall anticipated growth in energy demand in 2011 is two percent Openshaw said.

He revealed that Eskom has reduced its coal-related load losses.

“Load losses are the amount of capacity we lose as a result of plant failures and trips, and then we also have partial load losses as a result of coal quality and other limit factors and constraints that mean we can’t produce at our full capacity,” he explained.

Eskom’s performance in January improved in terms of the measure of energy availability.

This factor (energy availability in relation to the total generated electricity capacity) rose to 84% in the first quarter of 2011, compared with 82% in 2010 and a desired factor of 86% to 90%.

Coal stockpiles reached and maintained a healthy level of more than 40 days, compared with 20 to 22 days in 2008.

Openshaw explained that coal management is critical in “getting the most out of a power station”.

Eskom has provided for a 3 600 MW allowance for unplanned outages and load losses to cushion the South African system.

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