Consumers help stressed Eskom pull through winter

South Africa has pulled through the 2013 winter without power black outs. Touch Wood!

The national electricity utility Eskom said yesterday, this was made possible partly by a positive response to its Power Bulletins, a campaign broadcast on SABC channels urging consumers to cut back use during peak hours. The campaign helped to keep the lights on this winter, said Eskom.

This is after Eskom entered the 2013 winter with an extremely pressured national grid largely due to delays in the construction of the new power station Medupi. The power station under construction in Limpopo, Medupi, was designed to add about 4800 MW into the national grid from six units each producing about 800 MW. The first Medupi unit was initially scheduled to produce first power by 2012 but construction has encountered problems which have postponed commissioning of the first unit to the second half of 2014.Eskom Graph

Eskom is currently running with total capacity of about 41000 MW (base load of about 37000 MW). Available capacity on a daily basis tends to hover between 33000 MW and 36000 MW because of a variety of factors including planned and unplanned maintenance outages.

These figures are dangerously close to demand which varies from one day to the other and most importantly escalates within a day and peaks between 6pm and 9pm. In this winter Eskom has had situations where the margin between forecasted daily demand and available capacity stood at 2%. This meant that any mishap would have caused an overload sending the system to crash. This is what happened in 2008 when the country experienced blackouts.

According to international standards, Eskom needs to maintain a safety margin between supply capacity and demand of about 15%. Eskom is said to be currently running on a reserve margin of less than 8%. In one of its reports Eskom does state that 8% is insufficient for reliable supply.

In a statement released yesterday Eskom said the positive response by South Africans to Eskom’s television Power Bulletins helped to keep the lights on this winter. It said Power Bulletins reach about 5.5million television viewers every day.  “Figures just released show that as a direct result of Eskom’s Power Bulletins up to 250MW have been saved countrywide. In other words the saved electricity is equivalent to the amount powering the city of Bloemfontein”.

Eskom Senior GM Andrew Etzinger said “Eskom would like to thank all South African consumers for switching off during this critical period”.

The SABC’s Acting Chief Operations Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng said “This partnership, for the public service broadcaster, was of national importance as electricity forms part of our day to day life”.

Going green and supporting projects which have a positive impact on the environmental landscape of the country will always be one of the key priorities, of what we do as a public service broadcaster. This initiate could not have been as successful without the SABC’s involvement, as we reach over 25 million South African every day on our television and radio platforms. The SABC gives a powerful voice to any campaign”.

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