South Africans: Work together to overcome the power crisis

As we did when we successfully hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the people of South Africa must work together, saving electricity and planning for load shedding, to help us through the current power crisis, writes Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown.

power-article Over the past 20 years, electricity has been provided to more than 5.8-million South African households, reducing the percentage of households without electricity from about 50% in 1994 to the current 14%. (Image: Media Club South Africa)

Lynne Browne Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown

When South Africans stand together, we are able overcome the odds. It is a characteristic that has long defined us as a nation. We demonstrated this tenacity when we successfully hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

That success demonstrated our capabilities to the world and earned us the reputation of a country that can deliver.

Our national power supply remains under pressure as Eskom is at times unable to produce the full electricity required due to maintenance and unexpected breakdowns at power stations.

In this instance it becomes necessary to interrupt supply to certain areas through load shedding.

Our demand for electricity has reached the point where at least level one load shedding, a point which requires that 1 000 MW be removed from the grid, and sometimes level two, which requires the removal of
2 000 MW.

The government apologises for the inconvenience caused as a result of the unplanned electricity disruptions and remain deeply concerned over the effect it has had on the lives of South Africans. Its impact on business is equally troubling as our economy is dependent on electricity for economic growth.

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Eskom loadshedding

The government is working to secure South Africa’s future energy supply through an energy mix made up of coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy.

In the meantime, let us help the country by trying to work around load shedding. We should take time to familiarise ourselves with the schedule in our areas.

This way we will be able to plan ahead so that the power disruptions have less of an impact on our family life and businesses. Households and businesses are encouraged to prepare for at least two-hour power outages between 7am and 10pm daily.

Be aware of the national energy alerts on radio and television, and immediately respond to them by switching off high-energy appliances such as geysers, pool pumps, ovens and air conditioners so that we pass the critical period with limited disruptions.

The energy situation going forward remains extremely tight. But let’s bear in mind that we are all in this situation together and need to do everything possible to get through this short-term strain.

The government is confident that its analysis of the situation and the measures it is introducing will bring relief in the foreseeable future.

We are supporting the national grid through the more frequent use of diesel powered open-cycle gas turbines to help bridge the immediate gap between supply and demand.

Work is under way to reduce maintenance backlogs and improve the performance of power plants to reduce unplanned outages. These are a major concern.

There are also plans in place to restore 960 MW of generation capacity at Majuba Power Station by the end of the year, after one of its storage silos collapsed last year.

These immediate interventions are receiving our highest priority through the Interministerial War Room established by Cabinet to fast-track the implementation of a five-point plan to turn the current situation around.

The War Room is led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, supported by relevant ministers and a Technical War Room of directors-general.

Our energy crunch is a result of a number of complex factors. It includes the legacy of apartheid, where millions of marginalised black South Africans were deliberately excluded from the national grid.

Over the past 20 years, electricity has been provided to more than 5.8-million households, reducing the percentage of households without electricity from about 50% in 1994 to the current 14%.

Over the medium term, the government is working to secure the national grid by buying an additional 1000 MW from private power producers, which will come on stream within 18 months.

The launch of an independent power producer programme that harnesses waste energy from the sugar, paper, and pulp industries to produce about 800 MW is part of the department’s plans.

A number of potential gas-to-power projects have also been identified. These include both new gas-fired power stations and conversion of diesel-fired power stations to gas.

Our energy situation affects all of us. In the interest of the nation, we need to work together to solve our collective problem in the spirit and manner in which we rose to the challenge of 2010.

Like in our preparation for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, failure is simply not an option. We can and will overcome this tight energy situation when we stand together.