Power rationing phase begins

14 March 2008

South Africa has entered the second phase of its national emergency response plan – the power rationing phase – which will last from the end of March to July, with Eskom looking to commercial and residential users to cut their electricity consumption by 10%.

Eskom said in a statement this week that the second phase was to allow for the recovery of coal stocks and to address long-term plant health issues by carrying out more maintenance.

Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin explained that while large industrial customers had delivered on the state’s call for demand reduction since February, there were no significant savings from the country’s commercial and residential sectors.

“This means that we are unfortunately forced to move to scheduled load shedding as from 31 March 2008 to ensure that there is greater equity in dealing with the capacity constraints,” Erwin said. “Had we been able to achieve the 10% demand reduction of 3 000-megawatts, we would not have been in this position where we have to implement scheduled [power cuts].”

During this period, Eskom will be taking the necessary steps to increase the size of coal stockpiles and improve the reliability of its supplies through additional scheduled plant maintenance.

Should customers manage to achieve the 10% demand reduction, they will then be exempted from power cuts. Although selectively switchable critical loads or services will be exempted from power cuts where possible, they will still have to achieve the 10% demand reduction target.

“A voluntary demand curtailment by all consumers is preferable to [power cuts], but we have unfortunately not received the 10% demand reduction from all customers,” said Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga. “We appeal to all South Africans to work with us to ensure that we do indeed achieve the 3 000-megawatts demand reduction without scheduled [power cuts].”

According to Eskom, the period that will be used to set the base consumption level, from which savings have to be achieved, is October 2006 to September 2007.

Given the key principle of equity, key industrial customers, municipalities and high voltage industrial or commercial customers that are selectively switchable, can apply for exclusion from scheduled power cuts, once savings have been achieved.

Power cut schedules
Eskom said that the proposed power cut schedules will be published on 17 March, following which municipalities and key industrial customers will be given until 21 March to apply for exemption from power cuts on the back of prior recorded savings or due to having a concrete demand reduction programme.

On the 24 March, the revised power cut schedules that excludes the exempted customers will be published, and power cuts will then begin on the 31 March according to the revised schedule.

Eskom will benchmark individual contracted reduction every two weeks to ensure that each customer is achieving the 10% reduction called for, which then allows customers to be exempted from power cuts.

The utility explained that if a reduction were not achieved over the two benchmark periods, the customer would be reprogrammed into the power cuts schedule.

“Eskom and the government will meet with the key industrial customers and metros and large municipalities every two months and at the end of each session will further use that opportunity to update the public on progress,” Maroga said.

SAinfo reporter

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