S.Africa’s power system remains vulnerable: Eskom - CNBC Africa

S.Africa’s power system remains vulnerable: Eskom

Southern Africa

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Brain Dames is the chief executive officer (CEO) of South African power utility, Eskom. PHOTO: IISD

“With the projected demand and current trends in planned maintenance and in plant performance, extensive use of open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) is anticipated resulting in limited operating reserves to deal with volatility in demand or generation performance,” said Eskom chief executive Brian Dames at the Quarterly State of the System briefing on Tuesday.  

“We call on all customers particularly the municipalities and the commercial sectors to manage and cut out all electricity wastage. The industrial and commercial sector can make significant contributions particularly in large office blocks and shopping centres. If this is done, it will ensure a stable power system and reduced costs. We thank all our customers who continue to assist by reducing consumption.”

Dames indicated that the national electricity grid would remain constrained until new generating capacity comes on line and essential generation maintenance is done, as did public enterprises minister, Malusi Gigaba, who requested that customers be prudent with the electricity usage.

“The power system is currently tight and will remain like that until new generating capacity comes online. We therefore appeal for sustained savings throughout the day in order to reduce demand on the electricity grid. The less electricity you use, the more electricity will be available to go around. The electricity system remains tight and will remain so for a foreseeable future,” he said.

Eskom declared two system emergencies last week however, no rotational load-shedding was done. Nicolette Pombo-Van Zyl, programme director for African Utility Week, stated that it is the responsibility of each individual to use power responsibly.

“We know we’re in a tight spot capacity-wise, and winter is on its way. We need to make sure that by the time the season changes, we are thinking differently about how we use electricity, so that we don’t put ourselves or Eskom under undue pressure,” she explained.

“Not only looming power shortages, but also the implementation of a carbon tax, coming into effect in January 2015, should be a spur for businesses to explore alternatives to carbon production and improve their internal energy efficiency. While it is Eskom’s responsibility to provide power, it is ours to make sure that we use it responsibly.”

Dames also highlighted Eskom’s five-year plan, which is aimed at ensuring a sustainable generation fleet, at the Quarterly State of the System briefing.

“The plan will see us target 10 per cent of our generation capacity on average through the year to do fixed planned maintenance, to address reliability and environmental issues at our power stations. In the short to medium-term, this will introduce higher risks to balancing supply and demand. In order to manage these risks, the country must continue to focus on additional supply options, energy efficiency and some form of an energy conservation scheme as a safety net.”