SA’s power crisis critical

2014-12-06 00:00

THE country’s power crisis has reached critical levels. Eskom announced yesterday the power system in the country was “extremely ­constrained” and would remain so for the duration of the weekend.

It blamed “unforeseen technical problems at power stations, depleted water reserves and ­logistical issues relating to diesel supplies at our peaking power stations”.

At midday yesterday Eskom announced load shedding was extended from stage two to stage three as a result of the “shutdown of two of our open cycle gas turbine power station which use diesel to generate electricity”.

“The diesel reserves have been depleted at the Gourikwa and Ankerlig gas turbines leading to the shutdown of the power stations. The ­Drakensberg and Palmiet pumped storage schemes, which use water to generate electricity, have reduced output as a result of depleted water reserves.

“A further 1 000 mW of capacity is offline after three coal-powered units tripped last night due to technical faults.”

Brian Bilton, a senior technical adviser for the Electrical Contractors Association, said level three was “the worst possible scenario”.

“All they need to do now is switch off the entire South Africa.”

Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers, said the country should prepare for more blackouts. “They have to do this [implement stage three load shedding]. If they left the situation as it is, it might cause the generators to trip and that would create a national blackout.”

Eskom warned that stage three load shedding would start today from 6 am until 10 pm and again tomorrow from 8 am until 10 pm, to build up reserves for the week ahead.

“Consumers can help alleviate pressure from the system by reducing their electricity usage as much as they can.

“Eskom has also asked major customers to contribute by reducing their usage by 10%.

“Our objective for load shedding this weekend is to fill the pumped storage dams, fill diesel tanks and undertake essential maintenance. Our aspiration after that is to avoid load shedding if at all possible until mid-January,” chief executive Tshediso Matona said.

“Unfortunately we cannot guarantee this but we will put in every effort over the festive season to avoid interruptions,” he said.

According to Eskom, this critical level was last reached on March 6 this year.

A media official from Eskom explained: “We have three stages. The first stage is when we need 1 000 mW and the second stage is when we need 2 000 and in the third stage we need 4 500.

“As we move to the next schedule, it might happen that the same area might be load shed twice. That is simply because of the time overlap.”

Doray Valoo, the senior manager at Msunduzi electricity department, said they would continue using the same load-shedding schedule (see www.witness.co.za) although it would be implemented more severely.

“Previously the hospitals and other emergency services were allowed to keep their power during load shedding, but now all of them will be turned off. They have been informed and they will have to use generators for the two hours.”

eThekwini municipal spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said the level-three load-shedding schedules are available on the city’s website.

He urged people to continue to use electricity wisely, saying it was the only way to stabilise the grid.

PIETERMARITZBURG Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness said it was important for everyone to put their heads together and find a solution, saying to continue like this would be catastrophic for businesses.

She said the issue of load shedding was a complicated process for business from the staffing point of view and for companies that use large industrial equipment.

“On weekends you pay double time so you have to get your staffing absolutely right … It’s difficult for large companies that use smelters to fire them up and turn them off for two hours. If they are going to be turned off in the morning and afternoon they may as well not be turned on.”

Durban Chamber CEO Andrew Layman said level-three load shedding was devastating to the business fraternity.

“I cannot quantify the loss to businesses but if two hours is lost due to load shedding then it is the end of the working day for some companies. And if the news of load shedding level three is made unexpectedly then this affects negatively on the economy production is lost,” said Layman.

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