Households must moderate power usage

Eskom has partnered with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), in what looks like a desperate effort to moderate electricity usage especially during the peak periods especially at household level.

This can be taken as another flashing red light around the state of the national electricity grid. Eskom has been open about the fact that its capacity will come under serious pressure this winter. This winter is budgeted to feature extraordinarily high incidents of maintenance added to the fact that the capacity was already fundamentally wanting.

A new feature titled Power Bulletin will be introduced across SABC channels during prime slots as Eskom embarks on a campaign to reduce load by at least 2 000MW during the evening peak.

This may see the country through this winter without major power outages. There has been rising concern that anything less than significant household moderation during peak hours will push Eskom into load shedding this winter will be bad news for the already economy.

Power Bulletin sounds like a more in your face broadcasting which comes to add to the Power Alert campaign that is currently running on eNCA/eTV, DStv, and the SABC television channels. This is suggesting that Eskom has had little joy in its campaign to nudge households into moderation which may then justifies a more in your face intervention.

Eskom said the Power Bulletin will provide South Africans with daily real time information on the power system, encouraging and assisting them to take action to reduce the load on the national power grid.

Eskom said in terms of the agreement, the SABC will use all its three television channels and 18 radio stations at various times – especially in the mornings and afternoon to urge households, in particular, to help “Beat the Peak” by reducing demand during peak hours.

The Eskom statement said the Power Bulletin will be flighted on television immediately after the news, starting with the 17:30 news bulletin through 19:30. The announcements, which follow the weather forecast format, will run for 60 seconds on all three TV channels for five days until the end of the year. The radio announcements will be run three times a day – morning, midday and afternoon – and will also continue until December.

Eskom said South Africa experiences the highest demand for electricity during the winter months, particularly during winter evenings, when demand increases by more than 3000 MW in one hour – equivalent to the output of a large power station and more than the total energy use of some of our neighbouring countries.

Taking four simple steps over the four hours of the peak period can reduce demand for energy during peak times. The four steps are:

1.     Switch off  all geysers and pool pumps during peak

2.     Switch off all non-essential lighting

3.     Find alternative to electrical heaters

  • Dress warmly, and use space heaters less
  • Insulate ceilings to keep the heat in
  • Invest in thermostatically controlled heaters (fan heaters are ideal for quick heat; oil heaters for longer periods)
  • Consider gas heaters and hot water bottles

4.     Respond to the Power Alert messages by switching off all appliances that are not being used.

The utility said it usually performs most of its planned maintenance in the summer months. This winter will be different, Eskom will for the first time plan to do extensive long duration maintenance work to improve the reliability and performance of its power stations. This means that the power system will be constrained over the next few months, particularly during the evening peak period from 5pm to 9pm. Peak demand is expected to reach approximately 36 700 MW this winter, similar to last winter.

“The proposed planned maintenance over the winter period is considered fixed and must be implemented,” said Eskom Chief Executive Brian Dames. “We therefore urge all customers to partner with us to save electricity. This will ensure that adequate space is created for the planned maintenance while ensuring there is sufficient operating reserve.”

It is against this backdrop that Eskom has partnered with the SABC to launch Power Bulletin said the utility.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said: “The electricity supply system continues to be constrained, but we have put comprehensive plans in place to manage this. As we approach the winter and make South Africans participate in monitoring their own personal impact, Eskom and the SABC have collaborated to create an exciting initiative to educate and inform consumers about the country’s electricity status.”

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