Thursday, 15 February 2007
Yesterday (14 February 2007) the Chief Executive of Eskom, Mr Thulani S Gcabashe, told Parliament that the national electricity utility had run out of excess capacity and that the national demand for electricity is not closely matched with the supply. Gcabashe told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises that Eskom’s capacity cushion (reserve margin) is inadequate and that it would take a number of years for it to reach comfortable levels.
However, emergency plans as well as medium and long-term plans are being rolled out simultaneously to ensure that the country will have an adequate supply of electricity. Eskom has embarked on a R97 billion programme to improve the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in order to meet the rising demand for power.
“Eskom’s capacity expansion plans are under way and we will soon be seeing the first 1 050 MW of new capacity coming on line from the open-cycle gas turbines in the Western Cape to manage peak-time demand,” says Fani Zulu, Eskom national spokesperson.
It is true that economic growth in the past five years has pushed up demand for electricity and this growth is still rising. Eskom, the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and government have agreed on assumptions relating to economic growth and electricity demand growth into the future, namely 6% economic growth, which translates into 4% electrical energy growth. Eskom’s plans going forward are therefore based on this forecast.
Government’s current policy says that 70 percent of new build will come from Eskom and 30 percent from independent power producers. Of the R97 billion that Eskom is planning to spend, the following projects have been initiated to ensure adequate power supply:
- Bringing back on line three power stations that were decommissioned when South Africa had excess capacity. These stations – Camden, Komati and Grootvlei – which are based in Mpumalanga, will add 3 600 megawatts to the national grid by 2011.
- Two open-cycle gas turbines near Atlantis and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape will be commissioned before the beginning of winter this year, supplying a total of 1 750 megawatts for peak hours.
- A base-load power station, Project Alpha/Charlie in Lephalale in the Limpopo Province that will supply a total of 5400 megawatts is likely to be operational in the first half of 2011
- A pumped storage scheme on the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State has been accelerated and it is hoped that it will supply 1 330 megawatts by 2012. Another pumped storage scheme in Mpumalanga is in the approval process.
- The Eskom Board has approved the building of a nuclear power station in the Western Cape and this has been endorsed by government. The base-load power station will bring a further 3 000 megawatts into the system.
- A 100 megawatt wind farm is also being investigated.
Eskom has long-standing relationships and power supply contracts with neighbouring countries. A case in point is that it is currently importing 1 400 megawatts from Mozambique while at the same time supplying countries in Southern Africa. Collaborating with the SADC region is part of Eskom’s medium to long-term plans.
Eskom is currently part of Westcor, a company that was formed through the collaboration of Southern African power utilities. The South African allocation from this project is approximately 3 000 megawatts, which will come on line between 2011 and 2013. Other projects for gas (Namibia and Mozambique), coal (Botswana and Zimbabwe) and Hydro (Angola, Mozambique and Zambia) are being investigated. Related to these projects is the building of transmission lines across the continent. The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) plans to complete the southern African grid within ten years.
It could take up to five years to raise the reserve margin to the internationally acceptable 15 to 18 percent. It is therefore imperative for all South Africans to change their behaviour and make energy efficiency a way of life. One may ask, “How did Eskom end up with a reserve margin that is below 15%?” Policy decisions were based on the Electricity White Paper of 1998, which wanted to give independent power producers an opportunity to enter the market to increase generating capacity. Eskom, as the incumbent generator, was under instruction not to build new power stations. Its plans were therefore shelved but kept updated. It subsequently became apparent that private sector investment was not forthcoming. In 2004 Cabinet revisited the issue and gave Eskom the go-ahead to implement its capacity expansion plan.
The current aim of the Demand Side Management (DSM) programme is to reduce demand by an additional 153 MW a year, or some 4 200 MW over 20 years. This is equivalent to the annual output of an expensive new six-unit power station. Plans are afoot to increase the savings target to 1 000 MW.
“Electricity is a scarce resource and we appeal to all South Africans to use it efficiently. The onus is on each and every one of us to contribute towards reducing demand. Eskom, in partnership with the Department of Minerals and Energy, will be embarking on a national energy efficiency programme that will educate people about energy saving,” continued Zulu.
In the meantime the system remains vulnerable, which means that interruptions are possible. Eskom is working hard to minimise inconvenience to customers. Customers are therefore requested to save electricity to ensure that the occurrence of power outages is avoided. The following are some tips for saving electricity in the home.
SAVINGS TIPS FOR THE HOME
Every household in South Africa can save electricity and money through the efficient use of energy by implementing the following practices in the home:
Hot water system (geyser): install a geyser blanket, turn down the thermostat to 60 degrees C, insulate hot water pipes and use less hot water
Lighting: use compact fluorescent lights (CFL) instead of ordinary bulbs, switch lights off, use low-energy lamps for exterior lighting and do not install multiple lights on a single switch
Electric stove: use a pressure cooker when preparing foods that take a long time to cook, buy a stove with a convection oven, keep oven doors closed until food is cooked, bring foods to the boil on '‘high'’ setting but turn down to simmer until cooked, clean stove plate reflectors and make sure that pots and pans completely cover the stove plates
Refrigerator: Don’t open the door unnecessarily, make sure the seal is intact, turn off refrigerator when going on holiday, let hot food cool down before placing them in the refrigerator, defrost your refrigerator regularly, store foods apart on refrigerator shelves
Heaters: infrared heaters electricity are more efficient, an oil filled heater is the safest type of heater, use electric blankets, but turn them off when in bed
Dishwasher: fill dishwasher completely before operating, turn off before drying cycle and wipe dishes clean with a dry cloth, connect dishwasher to cold water supply, clean filters
Freezers: freezers work hard to remove heat and have to use more power. Only fill the freezer to nine-tenths of its capacity for optimum freezing. Defrost regularly
Microwave ovens: defrost food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave oven-it is more economical, use microwave oven to cook small to medium quantities of food-to cook larger portions of meat, it is better to use a conventional oven; compare cooking times (keep pressure cooker in mind)
Small appliances: use toasters, electric grills and skillets, slow cookers, electric pots and bottle warmers usually require less energy than the stove, use an electric kettle to boil water, not a saucepan or microwave oven
Automatic washing machine: a front loading washing machine uses less water and costs less to operate, use the warm water setting to cut down on energy needed to heat the water, make sure your load is full before washing
Tumble dryers: those with an electronic humidity control are the most efficient-they automatically shut off the drying cycle when clothes are dry, compact dryer are economical, use correct temperature settings to minimise the amount of electricity used, remove water before putting clothes into the tumble dryer, utilise sunny days for drying clothes outside
Ironing: switch the iron off once it has reached the correct temperature and complete the ironing on stored energy, use distilled water in steam irons, turn the iron off when you are not using it, by removing clothing promptly from dryer and folding them carefully, many items will require no ironing, iron low temperature fabrics first to reduce warm-up time
Insulation: insulate the ceiling, seal air gaps in the home, make use of the home’s material (such as concrete, brick and tiles) to adjust temperatures instead of using a heater or cooling appliances (for example: a concrete floor absorbs more heat than a floor covered by carpeting).