South Africans are still reeling from the not too distant memory of rolling blackouts which struck at the most inopportune of moments back in 2008.
Eskom, South Africa’s power supplier, is experiencing a rise in unplanned outages which are threatening the return of widespread load shedding.
This was reported by Engineering News, following several disruptions to the electricity grid on 31 October. Eskom spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, confirmed that the power grid has come under severe pressure in recent weeks, owing to a number of cumulative factors.
Eskom confirms the return of load shedding
South Africans are still reeling from the not too distant memory of rolling blackouts which struck at the most inopportune of moments back in 2008. Load shedding was an everyday occurrence which cost the local economy billions of rands.
While the reasons behind load shedding experienced ten years ago are marred in controversy, the reality of Eskom’s comparative power demands is baffling. The state owned energy supplier justified load shedding in 2008 by pointing to an overburdened power grid.
Yet, in the last ten years, Eskom has done little to improve the grid’s capacity or efficiency. Demand peaked at 30 436 MW on 31 October – Eskom managed to keep the grid operational by using all of its costly diesel-fuelled open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).
The question remains: why, when South Africa’s total theoretical power supply stands at over 40 000 MW, is Eskom unable to keep the lights on when the peak demand is well below capacity?
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Phasiwe begrudgingly explained that, on the night of 31 October, 10 000 MW of power was offline due to ‘unplanned breakdowns’. A further 6 000MW was unavailable because of scheduled maintenance.
Worse still, is that Eskom is nowhere nearer to fixing the recurring breakdowns, which have recently cut capacity by more than 25%. Phasiwe admits that the situation is dire and will inevitably lead to load shedding as a means of protecting the electricity grid from complete collapse.
This load shedding regiment is expected to hit South Africans in summer. Phasiwe confirmed that the low-demand summer months are allocated for grid maintenance. When grid maintenance meets unplanned breakdowns, load shedding is imminent.
Eskom’s long list of problems
Eskom is on the verge of complete operational collapse. The problems plaguing the state owned enterprise are vast and varied.
Eskom is running out of coal, thanks to a dubious Gupta deal. Currently, ten out of 15 power stations have less than 20 days’ supply of coal.
Add in billions of rands lost to irregular expenditure, a mass exodus of senior executives and the always-present threat of industrial action – Eskom is finding it increasingly hard to keep South Africa’s lights burning.
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