Power crisis is likely to worsen
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Cape Town - The national power crisis that has seen repeated black-outs daily around the country is likely to worsen, an energy analyst has warned.
And Eskom cannot promise that more intense load shedding will not be carried out over the coming days and weeks.
On Friday the beleaguered power utility escalated load shedding from stage 2 to stage 3, meaning that instead of the electricity going off once a day in certain areas, it went out for a few hours several times.
Stage 3 power cuts continued on Saturday and even though stage 2 load shedding was predicted for today, it could be changed to stage 3.
On Saturday an employee at Eskom’s media desk, who declined to be named, said it was carrying out the power cuts now to avoid load shedding from this Friday until January.
“The system is actually quite volatile. It could get worse than it was in 2008, but at this stage it isn’t,” she said.
Stage 3 load shedding was implemented this week for the first time in 9 months because Eskom said water and diesel reserves were running dry and there were technical faults at three coal-powered units.
Chris Yelland, an energy analyst who was an electrical engineer for more than 20 years, said on Saturday: “The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.”
He explained that planned shutdowns of power stations as a result of planned maintenance, and the unplanned shutdown of power stations due to breakdowns and a lack of maintenance, were affecting the country’s power situation.
Yelland said it was necessary for Eskom to keep the number of unplanned shutdowns steady and for them to increase planned shutdowns because there was a backlog of facilities in need of maintenance work.
“That means for the next year or so we’re going to have more power outages,” he said.
Yelland said it was necessary for Eskom to shut down power stations for maintenance and to carry out planned load shedding.
“They are doing it to avoid a national crisis,” he said.
Yelland said the present load shedding was being carried out in a more organised manner than in 2008.
This showed that Eskom had a plan to deal with it.
Rosemary Falcon, the South African Research Chairs Initiative chairwoman of Clean Coal Technology at the University of the Witwatersrand, described the situation at Eskom as “an absolute package of disaster”.
“It certainly can’t get much worse… They’ve just got to keep going as best as they can,” she said.
Falcon said Eskom’s problems started brewing nearly two decades ago.
She said that in 1996, Eskom employers had approached the government to say that by 2007 they would be short of capacity and that they needed more coal- fired power stations. But Falcon said the government did not agree to this. Load shedding took place in 2008.
“The lack of capacity is historic,” Falcon said.
She said that running the massive power stations at a high velocity increased wear and tear at the facilities. This then resulted in maintenance problems.The recent spate of load shedding started about three weeks ago.
Power cut schedules are on the City of Cape Town and Eskom websites – www.capetown.gov.za and http://loadshedding.eskom.co.za/current in place