Eskom blackouts threaten to cripple SA

It will take two weeks for the South African power system to recover if there was a total nationwide blackout, Eskom said on Tuesday.

“The entire country’s blackout recovery time is two weeks, assuming that everything goes smoothly,” Eskom group executive for sustainability Steve Lennon told reporters in Johannesburg.

He said if the country had to experience a complete blackout, consequences would be severe in every sector.

“We are not ready for that at all. We also have to prepare for blackouts because if we don’t, the consequences will be severe.”

Other countries are able to tap into the power system from a neighbouring country, when they experienced a complete blackout, he said.

“For South Africa we do not have that luxury and we would have to rely on our own blackstart plant to start the system from scratch.”

Eskom’s national control manager Al’Louise van Deventer said the county’s power system currently remained tight but manageable.

“As winter is not entirely over we are still experiencing high demand, especially between 5.30pm to 6.30pm.”

“The power system is tight and it will be for some time. We need to make sure we manage it well.”

Blackouts were initiated to avoid a system collapse where the entire country would be without electricity.

Deventer said the parastatal communicated with consumers when any planned power cuts were anticipated due to high demand.

The demand came from industrial, commercial, and residential users.

“We initiate blackouts when the power is in demand and we don’t have means to generate more.”

Eskom had other sources of power that are used when the power demand increases.

Deventer said Eskom had Open Cycle Gas Turbines power stations. They were used to provide power when the system was too constrained or during peak hours.

“These are mainly used during peak times when we require additional supply because there is too much demand.”

There was also renewable generation that provided power from the sun, wind and biomass.

“We are unable to rely on them during peak hours as their output is not reliable.”

The parastatal also received power from independent producers that contributed to the total generation mix in times of constraints.

When all means were exhausted and the system remained tight a decision to implement rotational power cuts was made and consumers were informed in advance.

She said user demands could be accurately predicted based on historical behaviour.

“But the prediction can be upset by weather and sudden socio-economical events such as severe cold fronts, sports events or industrial strikes.”

Users were urged to co-operate when asked to reduce power usage because that would prevent power cuts.

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Eskom blackouts threaten to cripple SA