Blackout fears after Eskom explosion

2011-03-26 09:31

The explosion at Eskom’s Duvha power station in Mpumalanga last month has forced the power utility to delay maintenance at other power stations – leading to ­concerns of further powercuts during the next two years.

This happened on February 9 at the coal-fired station in Emalahleni during a test on the unit. The ­real extent of the damage only came to light when energy analyst Chris Yelland published the pictures. This week Yelland estimated that the damage could cost ­anything between R2 billion and R3 billion.

The damage to the Duvha turbine generator happened while Eskom was preparing to relieve pressure on the national electricity supply. The utility was preparing to launch the first units at its Medupi power station in Limpopo by the end of next year.

The coal-fired Medupi was ­expected to generate 700MW for the national grid. But the explosion at ­Duvha erased 600MW from the national grid.

This could typically supply electricity to about 200 000 middle-class domestic households.

A team of professionals is trying to find the reason for the explosion at the Duvha power station.

Yelland said the country would be affected by the incident.

He said: “Another implication is that it is going to be more expensive for Eskom to generate power as it needs to use its stand-by ­generators.”

Yelland said that turning to ­diesel-powered generators as an option, would cost ­Eskom five times more an hour.

This explosion forced Eskom to use all its power suppliers and this has resulted in the postponement of its maintenance schedule.

“Power generators are being forced to go the extra mile and they could fail because they are not ­being maintained,” Yelland said.

Eskom’s head of communications, Hillary Joffe, said the damage was extensive. But she could not reveal when the parastatal would complete the investigation.

Joffe said the electricity supply would be tight for the next two years. She pleaded with consumers and the industry to implement energy-saving measures.

She said it would take 18 months for Eskom to fix the damage.

“If people use electricity wisely, this would create more chances to do maintenance work.”

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