Eskom sounds load-shedding alarm

2011-01-08 12:18

It is going to take a massive team ­effort from all parties concerned to avoid load-shedding this year.

The lack of new power stations will finally catch up with the country this year and could lead to a repetition of the dark days of 2008.

Eskom chief executive Brian Dames says Eskom has repeatedly warned that the power network will be under massive pressure in 2011 and 2012 because of the lack of new generating capacity.

“Now 2011 is here, and we can ­confirm that the power network is under pressure,” Dames said this week.

Eskom’s new power stations will start producing power only in 2013. Dames said it was going to take a team effort like never before to ­manage the network until then.

“If adequate steps are not taken to manage the gap between the demand for power and the available power, the deficit this year will be as much as six terawatt hours. That’s equal to the amount of power that a city like Cape Town uses in one year.”

Eskom’s total power capacity at present is 41 500 megawatts, of which 1 500 MW are imported from Cahora Bassa.

“The total demand for power at the moment is 30 000MW at peak times. That is expected to increase to 32 000MW in the next two weeks,” Dames said.

He said, however, Eskom expected the demand during this year’s winter months to rise further to 38 000MW.

That would leave a reserve of only 3 500MW for unforeseen power problems.

This reserve should normally be 15% of the total power network, but during the winter this figure will fall to 8%.

“Our power stations are old, ­between 30 and 40 years, and ­unexpected short circuits and ­unavailability of power stations ­occur frequently,” Dames said.

Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart said what made Eskom’s job particularly difficult was the fact that the economy was recovering.

“As the economy gets going after the recession, the demand for power will simply continue. The recession helped us in 2009 and 2010 because the demand was not as high as it would have been without the impact of the recession. This helped Eskom in particular.”

Hart said factories wanted to start returning to production and, ­consequently, they needed more electricity.

“Is load-shedding coming again? No one knows for certain, but the warning signs are definitely there.”

Hart said the current crisis could not be compared to the one in 2008 because now the situation was rather one of a lack of forward planning.

“Eskom should have started building new power stations long ago. They started too late. Now we are running short of power. In 2008 the problem was rather one of poor management and operational errors which ­resulted in a crisis.”

Dames said Eskom was looking at various ways of managing the ­situation. This included the use of diesel-driven power generators.

“This option is very expensive, but at peak times, when demand is at its highest, that would be an essential expenditure.

“Another option is to negotiate contracts with independent power suppliers as soon as possible. We have already signed contracts with four parties to provide up to 287MW of power in the future.

“Finally, we are appealing to all South Africans to save as much ­power as possible.”

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