South Africans are paying for Eskom's shortsightedness - Times LIVE
   
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South Africans are paying for Eskom's shortsightedness

unknown | 2012-01-11 00:17:49.0

Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

In early 2008, electricity blackouts became a common feature in South Africa as Eskom failed to deliver sufficient power to the country.

On Monday, Eskom issued the warning that many had been expecting - that the risk of load-shedding was high as demand outstripped the parastatal's capacity to supply power.

Eskom's inability to deliver power cost South Africa an estimated R50-billion in 2008.

As early as last year, CEO Brian Dames warned of the potential risks of keeping the lights on across the country.

In an interview then with the Financial Mail, Dames cautioned about a peak shortfall in 2012.

"The energy gap for 2012 is quite frightening. Are the mechanisms that are in place enough to avoid catastrophe? Even if we use all the mechanisms we currently have, there will still be an energy gap," Dames said.

It is clear that whatever mechanisms have been put in place to avoid "catastrophe" might not have been sufficient to prevent South Africa from returning to the dark of 2008.

The reasons for the warning are historical - ageing power plants that increasingly need maintenance, new plants that are in construction phase and a lack of foresight regarding infrastructure development at Eskom.

In essence, ordinary South Africans along with businesses are bearing the brunt of bad planning since the 1980s, when the country had a surplus of cheap energy.

The emphasis was on electrification rather than future infrastructure planning in the 1990s. But the rapid economic growth of the 1990s saw a concomitant demand for power.

By the time Eskom realised that its power plants were ageing, they had neglected planning for the future.

And so, we are back to the threat of load-shedding and another year of waiting for the first of two new plants to come online.

In the meantime, we are asked to do our bit - to switch off and conserve energy.

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