Eskom alone cannot solve our energy challenges

Thursday, December 18, 2014


In the past 20 years, our country has made significant strides in consolidating democracy and rolling out basic services such as electricity particularly to those deliberately excluded from these services by apartheid.

Since 1994, access to electricity has increased from just over 50% of households to 86%. According to Census 2011 the number of households with access to electricity is now at 12.1 million.

The government plans to connect a further 10 per cent of the population to the national power grid in the coming few years as part of our mass electrification programme to take power into deep rural areas of our country.

However, this massive electrification together with South Africa's steady economic growth, which is increasingly focusing on industrialisation, has inevitably led to a steep increase in the demand for electricity. This in return has further placed pressure on Eskom to build more power station and this work is at an advanced stage.

Our predictions also indicate that South Africa's energy demand is expected to be twice the current levels by 2030.
As we have all seen, Eskom has again embarked on load-shedding as a result of unplanned outages caused by a series of pressure in the national grid. The last time we experienced such severe outages was in 2008 and this week we went back to that painful experience when large parts of the country were hit by rolling blackouts, with traffic lights out in many areas.

These outages were followed by warnings from Eskom that the power grid remains severely constrained. The power system is expected to be very tight over the evening peaks of the next few days and the risk of widespread load-shedding will increase as the power utility diesel reserves decline. The energy crisis has also been exacerbated by multiple tripping of generating units at the Majuba and Matimba power stations.

We are all aware of the frustration that the load-shedding is causing both to businesses and individual households. But as we deal with this problem, government joins Eskom in a call to all South Africans to pull together over the next few months and use electricity sparingly by 'Living Lightly' this summer. Let us realise that Eskom alone, cannot be expected to handle our energy challenge.

At home, simple things like switching off geysers, pool pumps, and non-essential lights will go a long way in reducing demand and pressure on the national grid. Your geyser uses 39% of your monthly energy usage. Switch it off to reduce your energy demand.

 Although Government will always appeal to South Africans to monitor their electricity consumption, plans are in place to ensure that in future we can meet the needs of our growing economy as well as connecting new households to the grid. The synchronisation of the first unit at the 4 764 MW coal-fired Medupi power station is set to take place before the end of the year. The Kusile Power Station is anticipated to be completed in early 2017.

 The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is our blueprint to meet South Africa’s medium- to long-term energy needs over a 20 year period. It aims also to achieve a balance between affordable electricity and cleaner energy. IRP predicts that electricity consumption will increase from 260 Terawatt hours (TWh) in  2010 to 454 TWh in 2030, and that the peak demand for electricity will increase from 39 Gigawatt (GW) in 2010 to 68 GW in 2030. Therefore the IRP envisages a new generation capacity of 52 248MW over the next 20 years, which will take the country’s total energy generating capacity to 85 241MW in 2030.

South Africa is also committed to increase its renewable energy capacity. The Department of Energy has set a target of 1 million installations of solar water heater (SWH) geysers by end this year. Additionally, Government has ensured that the SWH programme strictly enforces the inclusion of a minimum of 70 per cent local content threshold, in an effort to optimise the benefits of localisation and create much needed jobs.

Government is committed to meeting the country’s energy needs. However, we need South Africans to be responsible citizens and to conserve as much energy as possible. By doing so Eskom will be able to meet energy demands which are crucial to the economic growth and prosperity of our country.








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