“We are going to run out of power”

Posted by: Yes Solar Cape (Cape Town, South Africa) – 09 October 2010

Government has warned that rolling blackouts would be imposed from next year unless “extraordinary” measures were taken by Eskom to ward off an impending power crisis.

Load shedding a reality from 2011, lasting until 2016

Eskom, in turn, has appealed to the public to conserve energy, and has urged private investors to help rescue the situation.

“We are going to run out of power,” spokesperson for Department of Minerals and Energy, Bheki Khumalo, said yesterday.

Khumalo was responding to a government report which predicted load shedding would become a reality from next year, lasting until 2016, unless urgent solutions were found.

Released for public comment yesterday, the Medium Term Risk Mitigation Plan (PTRM) for Electricity in South Africa – 2010 to 2016 anticipates rolling blackouts if energy providers other than Eskom are not found soon.

“This situation poses a real risk of rolling blackouts, similar to those experienced in 2008, and a serious threat to government’s objectives for growth and job creation,” the report states.

Khumalo said the report was a warning to all that energy in South Africa would not last forever.

“This report is a wake-up call to South Africans that we are not doing enough to improve our energy efficiency.”

Eskom division executive for system operations and planning Kannan Lakmeeharan explained that the shortfall between demand and supply expected over the five-year period would peak in 2012 at nine Terrawatts (TW), the equivalent output of one unit of a nuclear power station.

To put this into context, Cape Town uses about 12 TW a year. The average consumer uses about 340 kilowatts a month.

Lakmeeharan said this shortfall must, by necessity, be made up from power producers who would work alongside, but independently from, Eskom.

Already, agreements have been signed with private operators who would provide 277 Megawatts of power, and by April, Lakmeeharan said agreements should make up about 400MW of power.

The problem of power supply in South Africa is not a new one, and in recent months a number of foreign and local investors have shown an interest in energy production.

In August, President Jacob Zuma signed an agreement with leading solar company Suntech in China, the terms of which included looking into building a 100MW solar facility in South Africa.

On whether the gap could be closed, and the threat of power outages averted, he said: “It is feasible. What this report is about is being transparent to the country about the risks we face. The risks are real, and Eskom can’t deal with them alone. ”

Border Kei Chamber of Business chief executive Les Holbrook was glum in his prediction of how blackouts would affect East London should they be implemented.

“It would be disastrous, and would take us back to recession days,” he said.

“Business is resilient…but the lack of energy or power is not something we can overcome on our own. If those blackouts happen, we will have no hope of reaching growth targets.”

By: Taralyn McLean
Source: Dispatch Online

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