Power plans were dumped

2008-01-24 00:00

Eskom subsidised municipalities in the 1980s and early ’90s to close down their own power stations.

But now the electricity giant is saying its big consumers and local authorities should develop their own capacity to generate electricity.

“Authorities can be sorry that they did not maintain those power stations.

“Some have been demolished or are just ruins,” municipal government expert Advocate Werner Zybrands said yesterday.

Several municipalities used to be able to generate their own electricity and were not entirely dependent on Eskom.

“Local authorities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein and Cape Town used to have their own power stations. However, that capacity disappeared because Eskom wanted to have the monopoly to some extent,” Zybrands said.

Only about 10 years after municipal power stations were closed down did Eskom again invest in infrastructure.

Since the late 1990s, President Thabo Mbeki and his cabinet have, on several occasions, been warned about a future power crisis.

In 1998, the White Paper on Energy Policy warned that Eskom’s power reserves would run out by 2007 if the government did not make the necessary investments. But the government decided in 2001 not to invest in infrastructure.

Chief government spokesman Themba Maseko said yesterday the reason for that was that the government believed independent power producers would come to the fore.

“By 2003 the government realised that would not work and announced investments in infrastructure.

“That is when Eskom started re-opening closed-down power stations and planning new ones,” said Maseko.

Zybrands said it would be difficult for municipalities to revive their old power stations.

“They are too old and the authorities have gotten rid of all their experts in the meantime,” he said.

In Pretoria the Tshwane Metro Council’s Rooiwal and Tshwane West power stations are used mainly in the winter months, when it is cost-effective to do so.

In Johannesburg only 20% of its own power is supplied by the Metro Council’s Kelvin power station.

Zybrands says local authorities won’t be in a hurry to invest in infrastructure.

“Most of the municipal power distribution services will fall away soon, when the six new regional electricity distributors take over these functions from local authorities.

“So they will not easily spend their money on power generation,” he said.

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