Eskom striving to keep lights on in South Africa

 Although the country’s power supply will remain constrained going into the winter months, the government is working with Eskom  to ensure the country’s  lights stay on,  South African Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said today,  25 February 2014.

 The government is cognisant of electricity supply  disruptions on the economy,  he said.

 Speaking at this year’s first quarterly state of the electricity system briefing, Minister Gigaba said he was encouraged by the power utility’s efforts to keep the lights on.  Since November 2013 Eskom has declared three power emergencies in which it asked  its industrial and residential customers to reduce their power usage.

Last Thursday, the power utility declared an emergency as the power system was severely constrained due to the loss of additional generating units from the power station fleet, reduced imports and the extensive use of emergency reserves.  Also last week,  Eskom asked industrial customers to reduce their power use by 10%.  A system collpase was avoided when no further reserves were available in the system  Gigaba said.

 “We are fully aware of the disruptive element of power constraints, particularly on the economy. We wish to give reassurance that this situation we are going through is only  transient.  We will restore our country’s energy security and sustainability to the system.

“Eskom continues to manage a delicate system.” Gigaba said.

 Since the power emergency was enacted and lifted, maintenance work at plants was continuing.

 “As we move to winter, I’d like to urge that electricity be used sparingly.  During the months of April to July the system will be extremely tight.” 

 He  saidd the utility was walking a tight rope to ensure that the lights remained on and that rolling blackouts , as experienced in the past, are avoided.

 Gigaba noted that in light of the reduced revenue that the utility was operating on, the company had not been able to renew some of the short term supply side options. The Department of Public Enterprises, as the shareholder department, will continue to support the utility.

 Despite challenges, plant performance was stabilising, while coal stock remained at healthy levels (at 48 days in December). 

Outgoing Eskom CEO Brian Dames said it had been hard work keeping the lights on. “However, we will not allow a situation where we lose control of the system.

“We have avoided load shedding,” he said, adding that a lot of contribution in keeping the lights on had been from the utility’s customers.

 January 2014 saw a 500 MW higher demand in electricity than January 2013.

 “We have to support trade but we don’t compromise South Africa,” said Dames of Eskom’s export and import of electricity.

 Eskom is a member of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and trades with neighbouring countries.

 “Without supply to and from each other as SADC countries (i.e. imports and exports), our power systems and economies would be impacted negatively,” said Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi.           

 The system is expected to remain tight until the build programme delivers new power. Progress at the Medupi power station was coming along, as well as that of the Kusile power plant.

 “A lot of work has happened since December,” said Dames.

 Medupi’s first unit is still expected to be synchronised in the second half of this year.

 Eskom’s current fleet of power stations is at average 30 years old and requires higher levels of planned maintenance work.

 Planned outages vary between 5GW to 6GW up to April 2014, thereafter between 4GW and 5GW and by June will decrease to about 2GW.



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