Generate your own power 'to reduce Eskom's challenges'

09 January 2020 - 15:00
Medupi is five years behind schedule - completion deadline was 2015. Kusile, which was to have been completed in 2018, is now scheduled to be completed in 2021.
Image: Times Media Medupi is five years behind schedule - completion deadline was 2015. Kusile, which was to have been completed in 2018, is now scheduled to be completed in 2021.

The completion of Kusile and Medupi power stations should be among Eskom’s pressing priorities as load-shedding continues to hamper the power utility’s ability to ensure that the lights stay on, an energy analyst has suggested.

Eskom has been load-shedding from Saturday because of a loss of generation capacity at its plants due to unplanned breakdowns.

On Thursday morning, Eskom announced that load-shedding would continue until Friday morning because it had lost generation capacity over Wednesday night, with breakdowns affecting more than 14,000MW of output.

It also said emergency reserves were inadequate to meet the electricity demand on Thursday.

Analyst Chris Yelland said on Thursday Eskom was in a situation where it had been unable to perform the necessary maintenance of plants. This was because it did not have the "space" because of unplanned breakdowns.

Medupi is five years behind schedule - completion deadline was 2015. Kusile, which was to have been completed in 2018, is now scheduled to be completed in 2021.

Apart from speeding up the completion of the two powers stations, Yelland said, another way of adding new generation capacity in the short term was to allow customers — whether households or business — to  generate their own electricity.

This could be done by allowing households and businesses to install solar panels in the roofs of homes and businesses

“The more people have solar photovoltaic panels, the less electricity that Eskom has to deliver,” Yelland said.

He said this was the only way to ensure there was additional generation capacity in the short term as this could be done in six months to a year.

“We need to unlock regulatory processes to make it possible for customers to be part of the solution.”

Yelland also said the power that the department of energy sought to add to the grid was inadequate to address the shortfall.

Last month, the department published the request for information (RFI) designed to assess options to procure 2,000MW-3,000MW of power generation capacity that can be connected to the grid in the shortest time at the lowest cost.

The closing date for responses is January 31.

Yelland said the power that the department sought to procure was too little.

“Next week demand for power will grow as most factories will open. Demand will increase by 3,000MW next week.”

Yelland said the long-term plan which could ensure that the country had adequate power supply was for low-cost renewable energy, complimented by flexible generation.

Yelland said flexible generation came in two forms. The first was gas to power, which was quick to build at relatively low capital cost. The second was battery energy storage.

“Together with variable renewable energy this provides effectively reliable capacity that can follow demand.” 


As load-shedding is expected to last for a long time, the city of Cape Town gave tips to prepare for this event. These include:

• Communication: Ensure that your cellphone, laptop, tablet and radio are always fully charged when power is available. This will allow you to be able to communicate during load-shedding

• Transport: Make sure that your vehicle has sufficient fuel  as many petrol stations are unable to pump fuel during power outages

• Cash: Keep some cash on you as ATMs cannot operate without electricity

• Security and safety: Back up batteries for electric gates, garage doors and security systems should be kept in a good working condition and be able to last throughof load-shedding. Store temporary lighting such as battery-powered torches, gas lamps and candles in places where they will be easy to find in the dark

• Eating: If you do not have a gas stove, prepare meals before the power is scheduled to be switched off. Boil water in your kettle and keep it in Thermos flasks for hot drinks. You can also use an insulating cover on teapots, pots and pans to keep drinks and meals warm

• Medication: Most medication requiring refrigeration can be kept in a closed fridge for several hours without spoiling, but you should check with your doctor or pharmacist if in doubt

• Traffic lights: Intersections with traffic lights that are not working should be treated as four-way stops. The motorist who stops first may proceed first if the way is clear and safe to do so. Please stay calm and follow defensive driving techniques

• Avoid power surges and "nuisance tripping": If you know that your area will be affected by load-shedding, switch off appliances, geysers, pool pumps, air conditioners, lights and other electrical equipment to reduce the risk of damage caused when the power comes back on

• Be energy-wise: Switch off those appliances that you don’t need. Switch off your geyser and only switch it on for up to two hours a day. Delay switching on lights and appliances until after the peak periods (between 5pm and 9pm) whenever possible. Switch off your pool pump, geyser and other large electrical equipment, and never run two at the same time.