Load shedding – again?

Coal Power Station

Coal Power Station

With winter not in full swung yet South Africa’s electricity shortages are so severe that Eskom is regularly cutting supply to some of its major clients to prevent the entire supply network to collapse.
During peak times last month Eskom had to use it’s gas turbines, which should only be used during emergency situations.

While Eskom and Ms Dipou Peters, Minister of Energy, maintains that no outages are expected, the market still reacted sharply last week to rumours of South Africa possibly facing a re-occurrence of the load shedding crisis of 2008.

Me Hilary Joffe, Eskom’s head of communications, admitted that Eskom’s power reserves was so low the last year that scheduled maintenance work had to be postponed. The current load on the national power network is under severe stress.

The situation was exacerbated by the explosion of the Duvha power station at the beginning of the year, resulting in a loss of 600MW in generating capabilities. The 600MW is enough to supply the city of Bloemfontein during peak hours.
According to Mr Mike Rossouw, chairman of the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG), it happens more regularly that supply to some aluminium smelters and Eskom’s bigger industrial customers has to be cut when there is not enough power available during peak times.
The demand of electricity has increased more in the last 12 months than in the previous two years and the expected saving of 10% by consumers and Eskom did not realize, says Rossouw.
We do not want to raise alarm, but we are very concerned about the situation. There is very little room for error if anything should go wrong with the run of the power grid we are currently using and will result in a power crisis.
Meanwhile, Johannesburg’s city council placed a load shedding schedule on their website for the duration of the winter season. This elicited a great public response.
Cape Town has not announced any load shedding schedule yet, but always have one ready if the situation should warrant one, said Ms. Sarah Ward, head of Energy and Climate Change in the City.
The metro council of Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria) and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) indicates that the launches of their load shedding schedules are merely routine. According to them Eskom has not indicated the implementing/imposing of load shedding this winter.
Joffe says Eskom’s total generating capacity stands at 42 000MW and the highest consumption in July is predicted at 37 500MW.

Prof Christo Viljoen, old Dean of the faculty of Electrical Engineering at Stellenbosch University and former Chairman of the Eskom board, said these figures are alarming. This is far below the international norm to have a 15% power reserve in case of emergency such as a problem with any of the power stations.

Source: Rapport 29 May 2011

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