Environmentalist: Going green could keep lights on

The Koeberg nuclear power station just outside Cape Town. (File, AFP)
The Koeberg nuclear power station just outside Cape Town. (File, AFP)

Cape Town –  As rolling blackouts have left many South Africans in the dark, Greenpeace Africa said on Thursday the government is not fast-tracking investments in renewable energy, but is instead pushing forward with unsustainable, unaffordable plans for nuclear expansion which would deliver too little, too late, and at far too high a price.

On Thursday Eskom moved from stage 2 to stage 3 load shedding due to a further shortage of generation capacity as additional units have had to be taken out of service for unplanned maintenance.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe acknowledged that Thursday's load shedding was the worst since the Majuba silo collapsed at the start of November 2014, which was the last time South Africa had stage 3 load shedding.

“In total we have over 87 units within the Eskom fleet, [and] many of those units in all 27 power stations are not working optimally at this stage," he told Fin24. "It’s almost all our power stations [that] are experiencing all sorts of problems at this stage."

“Our engineers are still confident that Koeberg’s unit 1 will be synchronised [on Thursday],” he said.

Eskom said Unit 1 of the Koeberg power station, which was taken out of service due to a technical fault on the main generator transformer, is undergoing start-up tests required for synchronisation after the fault on the generator was resolved and is expected to return to service on Thursday evening. 

“We expect the unit to be back at full capacity later in the week as it does take some time to ramp it up.”

Phasiwe said:“The risk of a blackout is remote at this stage.

"There are a number of measures that have been put in place to make sure that this does not happen. This includes mechanical and human resources that have been put in place so that we mitigate against a blackout.”

"The power system remains constrained and will remain so for the rest of this week," Eskom said in its power alert. "Any extra load or faults in the system may necessitate the need to go into load shedding. We therefore urge all electricity customers to reduce their consumption in order to reduce the severity of load shedding."

Greenpeace Africa spokesperson Mbong Akiy Fokwa Tsafack said in a press statement on Thursday that SA is in the midst of a crushing energy crisis – one of the worst to date.

“The country's state owned utility Eskom is presently struggling to meet power demands, and has battled rolling stage 3 blackouts for months as a consequence of decades of under investment in energy infrastructure.”

She said: “Greenpeace Africa is taking serious action related to the financial risks of nuclear investments, because nuclear expansion fails to solve today's problems and diverts investments away from renewable energy, which is the only feasible solution to South Africa's current energy crisis.”

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