SA faces tight energy supply

Friday, April 8, 2011

Johannesburg - Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba says South Africa will do everything in its power to manage its tight energy supply to avoid outages such as those experienced three years ago.

"We are going to provide frontline leadership to the electricity challenges over the next two years at least and we are going to make sure that we do our best to avoid the reoccurrence of the energy challenges of 2008," said Gigaba.

The minister was speaking on Friday at the release of Eskom's second quarterly bulletin on the state of electricity in South Africa.

"Electricity supply speaks directly to the South African economy ... [it] is the pulse of the country and reliable energy supply is critical to that," explained Gigaba.

Government is in the process of evaluating safety issues, among others, in line with its envisaged nuclear plan. This comes as South Africa looks to diversify its energy mix, which is mainly provided by coal.

"We are aware of Fukushima," said Gigaba, referring to the incident as a result of the 11 March tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan leading to a loss of life and nuclear power leakages.

Currently, Koeberg's unit two has been taken down for maintenance and will be back on the grid in mid May. The plant is designed to withstand an earthquake measuring seven on the Richter Scale and has diesel backup. The emergency plan at Koeberg is also tested annually. 

To date, the power parastal has in access of 40 days worth of coal stockpiles, as South Africans brace themselves for the winter period.

"We are managing a tight power system. We are on alert and we have managed to keep the lights on. Winter will be even more challenging but we are working on preparing for it. Our resolve will be tested this winter and energy efficiency is crucial to meet capacity," said Eskom chief executive Brian Dames.

This winter, peak demand is expected to reach 37 500 megawatts in July. 

In the first quarter, the parastatal estimated that demand for electricity will increase by two percent but has instead risen by 1.5 percent. 

On the issue of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), in the first quarter Eskom said it would sign up 400 megawatts coal generation and has to date signed up 373 megawatts.

Addressing the Duvha power station's incident in February, Dames said the incident will remove 600 megawatts from the grid and that it will take over a year to repair the plant. Repairs to plants are usually conducted in the summer months. A report on the cause of the incident was still being drawn up as investigations continue.

Jayendra Naidoo of Business Leadership South Africa said business has given priority to energy conservation "because electricity is at the heart of business."

Of NUMSA's demand for a 20 percent across the board wage increase, Dames said Eskom had not received any request from the union. "We have not seen the demands."

The parastatal would also continue to support government's programme to install a million solar water geysers by 2014. In the past year, 60 000 geysers have been installed.

Both the minister and Eskom urged South Africans to use power sparingly. - BuaNews