Sunday, June 14, 2015

How Has Eskom Handled Power Crises Through the Years?

South Africa has been facing a power supply challenge since 2008. Regular power outages have become part of the lives of the residents of the country, owing to decreased generation capacity and ongoing planned and unplanned maintenance. Add to this the ever-increasing demand for electricity spurred by rapid population growth and lifestyle changes, as well as seasonal requirements.

Eskom said that it needed to complete scheduled maintenance works on the power infrastructure to minimize the chances of unplanned power cuts. It further claimed that it only implemented load shedding to protect the power system from suffering a complete failure.

This, however, is not the first time that Eskom has encountered such challenging circumstances. It would be interesting to have a look at how the power utility approached the same scenario in the 50s and 70s compared to today.

World War II

After the Second World War, the then Escom had to deal with an escalated demand for electricity. Thus, electricity consumption had to be restricted to avoid a consequent damage to the economy of South Africa, and key power stakeholders worked to gain access to additional power generation and transmission equipment.

Between 1945 and 1955, Escom reported that the capacity of its power plants grew twofold, and estimated that it would double again in the decade that followed. In the decade beginning in 1950, Escom commissioned 10 new power stations, among which were the small coal power plant in Hex River and the Taaibos and Kelvin stations.

1960s and 1970s

When South Africa faced another power crisis in the 60s and 70s, Eskom’s response was to build myriad power stations till the 80s. To support Eskom’s effort, the government of South Africa intervened at the policy level, creating special action committees and introducing new regulatory systems.


Experts believe that the South African government and Eskom have to show more resolve in dealing with the present energy crisis.

When load shedding was re-implemented earlier this year, the government said that the foremost reason for the supply insufficiency was the growing energy demand brought about by an expanding economy.

Industry insiders, however, believe that Eskom should not have found itself in such a challenging predicament had it heeded the warning of the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in the late 90s, which said that at the rate of the annual growth in demand for electricity in the country, South Africa’s energy supply would be outstripped by 2007. It added that decisions about building additional electricity generation capacity should be taken by 1999, but instead, owing to a variety of reasons, Eskom waited until 2004 before making a resolution on constructing new power plants.

The Roadmap Ahead

Now, the onus is on the government, Eskom and key stakeholders to find a viable and sustainable solution to South Africa’s power supply challenges. Building additional electricity generation capacity through the construction of new power plants may be a permanent solution, but its completion may take several years, even decades.

Rental or temporary power plants may be able to help South Africa boosts its electricity supply now that it needs it. Rental power plants can be installed in a matter of days, and can provide the exact amount of power that South Africa requires. They can be shipped from and to anywhere in the world, and can be installed and commissioned in no time, as they do not require additional power infrastructure to be constructed to run. They come as packaged systems, so once they are plugged and played, they are good to go.

Moreover, since temporary power plants are hired, South Africa need not shell out a huge capital for their construction and subsequent maintenance.

The key to the resolution of South Africa’s energy woes may not lie on one single technology. To resolve the crisis, the country and its utility providers should tap the potential of all solutions on offer. In this way, South Africa will be provided with a reliable and sustainable source of electricity and avert future energy supply challenges from occurring.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

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