Cut down on power - Rasool

2006-02-19 19:02

Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool has appealed to resident of the province to use electricity sparingly in the next two days as Eskom works to bring Koeberg back on line.

He was speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town after a series of province-wide power cuts on Saturday and Sunday morning, and following what he said was a "very, very frank" teleconference with Eskom executives in Johannesburg.

"We cannot begin to express our dismay that yet again the Western Cape and Cape Town in particular has experienced this power outage," he said.

"I believe that the citizens of Cape Town may have reason to be angry, just like the mayor is and just like I am.

"But that anger should not be a defiant anger. It is a call for responsible usage of electricity, starting particularly tonight (Sunday)."

'General saving'

He was calling for a "general saving" starting at 18:30 on Sunday and persisting until 21:30 on Tuesday, to avoid the need for forced power cuts.

"For that period, a matter of just over 24 hours, we are appealing to people to please put off their geysers.

We are appealing to people... to switch off their pool pumps and their pool heaters, to switch off unnecessary lights..., to switch off unnecessary appliances....

"What we are calling for is for self-regulation as opposed to having to offload power and to create a general cut in order to save 800MW of electricity for the next two days.

"That is the appeal that we are making."

It was expected that Koeberg would be back on line by either Monday night or Tuesday.

When Koeberg's two reactor units are in operation, the nuclear power station on the outskirts of Cape Town supplies just under half of the Western Cape's peak electricity demand.

However, Unit 1 has been out of commission since Christmas Day after it was damaged by a loose bolt left behind during routine maintenance.

Power from north

With the second unit down shut down on Saturday for reasons which Eskom says it does not yet know, the Western Cape has to draw the bulk of its power from the north of the country, along transmission lines that run through Kimberley and De Aar.

These lines can carry only 75% of the province's peak demand of 3 000 Megawatts.

When the lines approach capacity, Eskom is forced to shut off power to entire areas in so-called "rolling blackouts".

Eskom said on Sunday that although the power supply was restored to the grid after the Koeberg unit tripped shortly before noon on Saturday, that evening the transfer limits to the Cape were exceeded by 100MW, leading to cuts in several Boland and West Coast towns.

In addition, several lines tripped because of short circuits caused by a combination of heavy mist and a build-up of soot from the recent fires in the Western Cape.

Eskom has already announced plans to build two gas-turbine power stations in the Atlantis and Mossel Bay areas, at a cost of R3.5bn, for more secure power supply to the Western Cape.

'Key energy users'

Rasool told the briefing the province would on Sunday night be short of about 200MW of the power normally used on a Sunday night.

On Monday it would be short of 800MW.

Eskom, the new regional electricity distribution body Red 1, and the city were already meeting key energy users to ask them to cut down on usage.

He himself would speak to the mayors and municipalities of all large municipalities in the province to see how they could save power, Rasool said.

Eskom's western region general manager for distribution Ayanda Noah said at the briefing that the large clients included PetroSA, and the Caltex refinery at Milnerton, and Saldanha Steel.

"We do realise that this outage has caused major inconvenience to the whole community of the Western Cape, and we would to really apologise.

"I would also like to assure you that we are doing all we can to make sure that this problem does not recur."

Teams were in the field making sure that the insulators that shorted through soot were all spray-washed, she said.

City of Cape Town public lighting manager Charles Kadalie said that by 13:00, power had been restored to all areas except the Atlantic seaboard, parts of Green Point and Vanguard.

He said traffic lights would have to be manually reset, so motorists should approach intersections with caution.