Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 30 May 2011 – South African national power utility Eskom Holdings has re-assured electricity customers that it has a fall-back plan to keep the lights on this winter, even as it anticipated record peak demand during one of the coldest spells this year.
The power utility predicted peak demand would touch 36 000MW during the weekend, after breaking through 35 000MW due to higher household electricity consumption in the cold weather.
“It’s a tight week,” said Eskom spokeswoman Hilary Joffe, indicating that peak demand would nevertheless be short of Eskom’s 2011 mid-winter forecast of 37 500MW. She estimated the utility’s generating capacity at 42 000MW.
Eskom has developed a multi-pronged plan to avoid a repeat of the unexpected blackouts that forced mines and smelters to close for days in 2008 and resulted thereafter in load shedding, or rolling blackouts to avert grid overload.
Since then, Eskom has added 1 000MW of generating capacity from gas turbines, but diesel costs render this option a last resort. The return to service of three decommissioned coal-fired power stations has also created additional generating capacity of 4 000MW, most of it since 2008.
An additional 373MW of cogeneration (electricity made from industrial processes) has been secured from independent power producers including Sasol, Sappi and Ipsa. Another 260MW has been added in short-term municipal deals with the Kelvin and Rooiwal power units.
However, the utility is short of 600MW after an unexplained outage at the Duvha power station, which is expected to remain off-line this year.
Demand for electricity has surged back to levels before the 2008 financial crisis, growing 4% in 2010 and 1.5% in the first quarter of the year, compared with 2010. Eskom expected demand growth of 2% for the full year, Joffe said.
She added that most of Eskom’s 140 largest industrial customers had agreed to participate in a voluntary energy conservation programme in terms of which Eskom had invested almost R1 billion to support energy efficiency measures. Eskom has been given R5.4 billion over three years by the energy regulator to upgrade customers’ equipment.