Eskom urges South Africans to ‘beat the peak’ going into winter

MEDIA STATEMENT – Eskom urges South Africans to ‘beat the peak’ going into winter

Monday, 22 April 2013: Eskom has today provided an update on the outlook for the power system as we go into winter 2013, urging all South Africans to partner to keep the lights on in a challenging year.

In previous years Eskom has generally reduced planned maintenance to the minimum during the winter months, so as to ensure it has maximum capacity available to meet higher demand for electricity.

However, higher levels of planned maintenance are urgently required in order to ensure that our ageing [sic] fleet of power stations can perform more reliably, on a sustained basis. This means that the power sys­tem will be very tight over the next few months, particularly during the evening peak from 5pm to 9pm.

“This winter is different,” said Eskom Chief Executive Brian Dames. “We cannot and will not defer es­sential maintenance work. We are taking action to ensure that our power stations can improve and sus­tain their performance, so that they can meet South Africa’s long-term need for a secure supply of elec­tricity.”

“We have kept the lights on for the past five years and we remain committed to keeping the lights on. But as Eskom we cannot do it alone,” Dames said. “We urge all South Africans to partner with us. Beat the Peak by switching off all non-essential appliances during the evening peak from 5pm to 9pm.”

Almost two thirds of Eskom’s power stations are past the mid-point of their expected operating lives and they require higher levels of planned maintenance work. Finding the space to do that, while meeting de­mand, has been a particular challenge this year. Imports from Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa power sta­tion were reduced by 900 MW because of flood damage to a transmission line in February. The line has today been returned to service. The unplanned outage of Unit 1 of Eskom’s Koeberg power station re­duced capacity by a further 900 MW. The unit is expected to be back on line in the current week. In ad­dition, the performance of Eskom’s power stations has been extremely volatile, further constraining ca­pacity.

Going into winter, Eskom will for the first time plan to do extensive maintenance work, even during the coldest months, to improve the reliability of its power stations and address safety and compliance is­sues.

“The proposed planned maintenance over the winter period is considered fixed and must be implement­ed,” said 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.”

The power system is expected to be particularly tight in winter during the evening peak from 5pm to 9pm when demand for electricity tends to spike (by 3 000 MW or more) when people come home from work and switch on space heaters, lights, cookers and other electrical appliances.

Peak demand is expected to reach approximately 36 700 MW this winter, similar to last winter. Eskom urges households, in particular, to help Beat the Peak by reducing demand during peak hours. Geysers, pool pumps, non-essential lighting and all other non-essential appliances should be switched off during those hours.

Eskom has also re-iterated its call for a voluntary Energy Conservation Scheme to be put in place to help to mitigate the risks to the power system.

Eskom has kept the lights on in recent years, in a situation of constrained supply, in part by deferring non-essential maintenance. This is not a sustainable approach and Eskom is now implementing a five-year plan that will enable it to do the maintenance required to ensure a reliable and sustainable supply of electricity in the longer term. The plan will require that a 10% average planned maintenance ratio is sustained over the five years.

“Eskom’s power stations are at a stage where plant reliability can no longer be compromised by delay­ing maintenance,” said Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba.

“The undertaking of this planned maintenance will result in an even more delicate power system given the number of risks that could negatively affect Eskom’s ability to balance supply and demand this win­ter, thus a partnership in keeping the lights on will be even more required than at any other stage in the past.

“There is a greater need to save more electricity especially over the evening peak periods, that is, be­tween 5pm and 9pm, when the system will be the most constrained.

“A significant behavioural change is required by everyone in the country. As South Africans, we call on you to use electricity sparingly, particularly, during these peak times by switching off geysers, pool pumps and lights not in use during this time.”

Eskom has put a range of initiatives in place to assist it to balance supply and demand.

Approximately 2 000 MW of capacity has been signed up from independent power producers and mu­nicipalities. Eskom’s Integrated Demand Management programme has resulted in savings of more than 3 500 MW, which is almost the output of a large power station. Coal handling and coal quality have been improved, with coal-related production losses showing an improving trend.

The 49M campaign continues to raise awareness of the need to use electricity wisely and efficiently.

As winter approaches, Eskom is also putting contingency plans in place to manage the risks of any se­vere weather event, just as it did in previous winters.

“I would like to urge the country to continue supporting our efforts of keeping the lights on, especially as we go into winter,” Gigaba said. “No effort is insignificant in this regard, every little bit helps.”


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