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MPs blast Eskom over power cuts

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Independent Newspapers

File photo: Matthew Jordaan

Parliament - Eskom came under fire in the National Assembly on Thursday following staggered power cuts that hit many cities in the country.

Opposition MPs used the podium to hit out at the ANC and Eskom for failing to ensure the country's two new power stations were built on time.

“This is a national crisis,” said DA MP Natasha Michael.

“It is unacceptable that six years after the last energy crisis, Eskom has still not managed to adequately increase the capacity to deal with such challenges.”

Michael accused President Jacob Zuma and the ruling party of putting personal gain above service delivery.

“At the heart of the problem are construction delays at Medupi power station and the ANC-linked Hitachi Africa,” she said.

The Congress of the People criticised Eskom for not providing South Africans with adequate notice of the power cuts.

“In South Africa we do have the ability to predict the weather correctly. Eskom blames the unfortunate state of affairs on the rain and weather, and this is not the first heavy rains we've had since 2008,” said Cope MP Nick Koornhof.

He said Eskom should have taken the necessary precautions to ensure the power utility's coal stocks for its power stations in the north of the country were not depleted as a result of wet weather.

“Their failure borders on negligent administration of our energy sources and (they) are letting down this country.”

The Independent Democrats said Eskom's inefficiency was holding the country's economy to ransom.

“The dodgy deals and the failure of Eskom to build Medupi and Kusile on time have meant that our reserve margin have always been on the verge of plunging our country into darkness,” said ID MP Lance Greyling.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba responded by telling the House the staggered power cuts were likely to continue beyond Thursday.

“It is anticipated this emergency will continue until after the evening peak tonight, and we will continue to manage the system,” he told MPs.

“Over the last week, Eskom depleted its dry coal stockpiles at some power stations due to the rainy weather conditions. This contributed to severe system constraints due to lower output as a result of wet and poor quality coal,” he said.

This was, however, not the only reason for the shortfall in electricity supply.

“Last night, Eskom lost three units at Kendall power station (in Mpumalanga), as well as they had to reduce output at other power stations,” Gigaba said.

Low dam levels at power stations in the Drakensberg and Palmiet pumped storage schemes had also compounded the “power emergency”.

“These plants act as reserves during peak times, and during constraints they were used beyond the peak times, hence the low reserves at the dams,” Gigaba said.

“This was exacerbated by the loss of imports via the Zimbabwe electricity supply authority.”

Eskom was forced to declare an emergency this morning and implement power cuts.

“After all reserves were used and after a reduction by key industrial customers, at eight o'clock this morning an additional reduction in demand of about 3000 megawatts was needed to balance the electricity system,” Gigaba said.

“To make provision for the shortfall, Eskom's emergency protocol required that all customers, including Eskom and the municipalities, must reduce their demand by 20 percent through rotational load shedding.”

Sapa

Eskom load shedding schedule


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