Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 26 May 2011 – South African national power utility Eskom Holdings, which is battling to keep the lights on in Africa’s biggest economy, has denied currency market speculation of power outages.
The country’s national grid nearly collapsed in early 2008, forcing mines and smelters to shut down for days and costing the top producer of platinum and a major supplier of gold billions of dollars in lost output. Eskom has said that the system will be tight for the next few years until the first of its new power plants come on stream.
“Obviously the system is tight and it’s been cold, but there has been no load-shedding,” Eskom spokeswoman Hilary Joffe said. Load-shedding refers to rolling blackouts designed to prevent grid overload.
Market participants said speculation about load-shedding was behind the rand’s more than 1% fall against the dollar yesterday to its lowest levels in almost 10 weeks.
South Africa is about to enter its winter period, which runs from June to August, when demand for electricity is expected to peak due to usage of energy-intensive heaters and lighting.
Eskom has confirmed that electricity use had recently risen during peak times to levels higher than at the same time last year, and the utility urged consumers to conserve power to prevent a system breakdown. For every 1 degree Centigrade drop in winter temperatures, demand rises by 600 to700 MW during peak time, Eskom revealed.
Eskom plans to invest up to R460 billion in new power plants to plug the shortfall and meet fast-rising demand from industries and residential consumers, but analysts say this may not be enough or not soon enough.
The first unit of Eskom’s planned Medupi power station “’ the utility’s first new plant in more than two decades “’ is expected to come online towards the end of 2012.