File Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA.
Johannesburg - It remains unclear where South Africans will be able to watch the Springboks take on the Japanese in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday, without any power cuts.

Eskom, could not say if Sunday would be load shedding-free; they would only know on Saturday. This after they announced that there would be stage 1 rolling blackouts for Saturday between 9am and 11pm.

On Thursday, Eskom’s acting CEO, Jabu Mabuza, said Eskom wasn’t expecting load shedding at the weekend. However, earlier on Friday Eskom admitted that the national grid had become further strained after they had lost Medupi 3, 4, and 5 due to coal and ash handling problems.

This had created an additional shortage of 1500 megawatts of electricity, forcing the power utility to maintain stage 2 load shedding.

Energy expert Ted Blom, however, warns that South Africans are likely to see far more load-shedding events in the future. “It is going to get worse, at least for the next five years,” he said.

This as Eskom tries to deal with serious design defects in the Kusile and Medupi power stations and, he says, continues to use sub-standard coal in their boilers. The failure of a conveyor belt at Medupi has been blamed for triggering load shedding earlier this week.

“I was shocked to learn that with the Medupi conveyor belt, there was no redundancy built into the system. How can you have one conveyor belt supply half a power station?” he said.

To sort out all of Eskom’s woes will end up costing the taxpayer R1.7 trillion, according to Blom.

Another concern, he said, was Eskom’s reserve margins, which were dangerously low.

“It is totally irresponsible for Eskom to run the grid with a 5% safety margin; the global standard is 15%. We are heading for a grid meltdown; at no time can demand exceed supply even by 1000th of a watt. The moment that happens, your turbines start flying and competing with SAA,” he said.

But while Eskom believes they are slowly sorting out their power station woes, the DA is calling the current crisis an electricity meltdown.

“The floundering, confusion and dishonesty can no longer continue. The public needs clear answers from Eskom and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on the state of affairs at the beleaguered power utility,” DA shadow minister of Public Enterprises Natasha Mazzone said.

“Until Mr Jabu Mabuza can categorically tell the truth, we suggest that he says nothing at all until such time he accounts to Parliament.”

She added that the DA had written to the chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises, Khaya Magaxa, to request that Eskom’s board and Gordhan be summoned to appear before the committee to explain their inability to deal with the crisis.

Saturday Star