ENERGY MONTH: South Africa’s load shedding signals a ‘breaking point’

Eskom blackout (Medium)

South Africa has reached the last resort to prevent the collapse of the power system country-wide.

With this in mind, South Africans ask: “How did we get to a place where load shedding is necessary?”

According to Eskom, “In the past decade, South Africa has had a steady increase in the demand for electricity because of robust economic growth.

“The continued growth in the economy has exhausted Eskom’s surplus capacity for electricity generation and reduced its reserve margin progressively.”

According to a statement made earlier, the company’s CEO, Tshediso Matona, said: “Lack of maintenance over the years has led to load shedding.”

Eskom documents reveal that the company expects the reserve margin to continue on a downward trend for the next few years until substantial new base-load power plants comes on line.

In spite of new capacity coming on line, including bringing back the mothballed power stations and building open-cycle gas turbines, the demand is still higher than the available capacity.

Eskom’s short term challenges include the following:

  • Improve the load shedding schedules, and the accuracy, quality and fairness of, and adherence to, these schedules, which are large and complex.
  • Improve suburb search (navigation) on the website
  • Improve agent training and increase the number of agents in the contact centres
  • Ongoing communication with the municipalities
  • Encourage saving of electricity – using electricity sparingly
  • Investigate and implement alternatives to load shedding, such as power rationing
  • Improve transparency and communication

Work with customer groups and stakeholders to find and agree on acceptable solutions

While this is Eskom’s plan, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched its ‘Power to the People Campaign’ during the month of March.

The party believes the government needs to action the following in order to effectively deal with the challenges Eskom has been facing recently:

  • Declare a national crisis: Acknowledge that load shedding is indicative of a nation energy crisis.
  • Open the grid: Allow independent power producers to contribute to the national grid.
  • Recoup Eskom bonuses: Recover taxpayers’ money paid in bonuses and freeze future bonus payments.
  • Give tax breaks on generators: Negotiate with national treasury to make the purchase of generators tax deductable.

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