Eskom urges big switch-off
In a last-ditch effort to avoid load-shedding, Eskom CEO Brian Dames has urged users of electricity to cut their consumption by a 10th this winter.
As the state-owned power supplier embarks on maintenance it can no longer delay, it is desperately in need of spare capacity to avoid the power cuts that rocked the country in April 2008.
Heaters, geysers, unnecessary lights and swimming pool pumps are on the no-go list between 5pm and 9pm, when energy consumption peaks.
Though Dames repeated a request that the government introduce "some form of mandatory energy conservation scheme", he asked residential consumers to switch off some of their equipment voluntarily to save 2000MW on the system.
"Our power stations are ageing; they need more maintenance to keep the lights on," said Dames.
Almost two-thirds of Eskom's installed base-load power generating plants are past their "midlife".
New power station Medupi is still not producing and is being built at a much higher cost than planned. Strikes contributed to delays in its coming on stream but, according to Dames, about 15000 people were yesterday hard at work on the power station.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to getting Medupi to supply electricity by December.
Asked about the National Union of Metalworkers' animosity to foreigners brought in to do specialist welding on the plant, Gigaba said he was not concerned about some organisations' "public postures".
"I don't think that any of the stakeholders will be allowed to delay, or hold back, or at worst even reverse, the progress on this project," said Gigaba.
In recent months not only strikes threatened Eskom's future supply.
Imports from Mozambique's Cahora Bassa hydro-electric power station were reduced by 900MW because of flood damage to a transmission line in February, Dames said.
Though the line was yesterday returned to service, he referred to Cahora Bassa as an "unreliable" source.
The failure of unit 1 at Koeberg nuclear power station reduced Eskom's capacity by a further 900MW. The unit was expected to be back on line later this week.
Dames described the capacity of the rest of the company's coal-fired stations as "volatile".