What has changed since the 2007/2008 energy crisis?
Eskom faced critical infrastructure and coal supply problems.
» Eskom had bad leadership, planning and management.
» Electricity demand spiked due to economic growth.
» Electricity trading between South Africa and its neighbours was affected as an Eskom converter station was refurbished in Cahora Bassa, Mozambique, and there was system unavailability in Zambia.
» Eskom has new leadership and management who on numerous occasions have spoken publicly about its “resolve to avoid load shedding”.
» Eskom still has critical infrastructure problems and will continue to have. The first turbine from the Medupi power station in Limpopo to join the national grid will only be operational by the end of 2012.
» Eskom had gone from having enough coal for only 12 days’ of electricity generation in 2008 to about 40 days’ supply today.
» Independent power producers Sasol and Sappi had added 373MW of power to available resources.
» Eskom has agreements for supplies from the Rooiwal and Kelvin stations.
» Most of the close to 140 biggest companies in the industrial and mining sectors had signed a voluntary energy conservation programme – adding to a saving of 5% compared to the 2007 baseline.
» Gas turbines are on standby to run as an emergency reserve.
» Eskom is working closely with its 500 largest customers to forecast and manage demand.
» When required, energy- saving measures will be applied by the 11 other members of the Southern African power pool, which trades electricity.
» Eskom’s energy efficient lighting programme received 60 000 applications last year to install solar water geysers.
Load shedding now
This winter, load shedding is possible but highly
unlikely as Eskom has a long line of defence mechanisms planned before
it has to resort to scheduled blackouts.
According to spokesperson Hilary Joffe, these include:
» Eskom will first use all its emergency reserves. Then it will ask all its large customers to honour agreements to voluntarily shed load.
» Only if Eskom sees that these measures are not enough to prevent the
system from crashing, will it ask other big customers – such as big
municipalities and metros – to drop a certain amount of megawatts.
» It is only then that load shedding will kick in.
Two load shedding scenarios
» Eskom sees demand spiking and there is enough time for the early warning systems to kick in. Then Eskom and the customer, for instance City Power, will announce imminent load shedding through the media.
» However, in the case of a national crisis, where for instance a turbine is lost and a national blackout threatens, Eskom’s emergency operations room will contact City Power and inform them immediately to shed X amount of megawatts.
This will not give City Power enough time to publicly make an announcement before starting load shedding, but spokesperson Louis Pieterse said such an announcement will follow shortly afterwards in the media.
If there is no early warning
» Municipalities and metros will follow their load shedding schedules.
» If City Power is asked by Eskom on a Tuesday afternoon at 2pm to immediately shed load, then City Power will cut power to those suburbs on the load shedding schedule for that particular day and time.
» From then onwards, the load shedding schedule will be followed for as long as it takes to alleviate the pressure on the national grid.
» An announcement will also be made that load shedding has stopped.