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Mar 25, 2008

Eskom urges residential, commercial customers to also cut demand

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Struggling State-owned power producer Eskom on Tuesday again bemoaned the lack of commitment from the residential and commercial sectors to curbing their power use, while its biggest users had all come to the table.

Spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said that the utility's key customers had all cut their power use by 10%, but that the commercial sector had only managed a 5% reduction and residential an unimpressive less-than-2% decrease.

On March 30, Eskom would be moving into what it called a "scheduled load shedding" phase, which would see it cutting power for two and a half hours every second day to those customers that failed to reduce their consumption by the 10% target, including municipalities.

Etzinger noted that municipalities would be able to prevent or reduce the severity of their load shedding proportionally to the amount they managed to reduce their demand by.

For example, if a customer saved 5% of its power consumption, it would halve the amount of load shedding it incurred, he stated.


7 LEAN YEARS

Etzinger said that the country was likely to emerge from the power crisis in the next five to seven years, when new base-load generation capacity began providing MW to the strained national grid.

Eskom had begun construction on the Medupi power station near Lephalale - its first new big coal-fired power station in about two decades - and was expected to start work soon on a second one, Bravo, to be located in the Mpumalanga coalfields.

The utility is hoping that the first Medupi units will come on line in 2012, with the Bravo units following over the subsequent months.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

The severity of the power crisis could be eased if the country used its power more efficiently, Etzinger said.

South Africa was 30% to 50% more energy intensive than similar developing countries, mainly because of it offering the cheapest power in the world, he stated.

"There are certainly components of wastage there," he commented.

What was likely to get the country thinking very carefully about these wasteful ways was the 50%-plus immediate electricity tariff hike that Eskom had asked the National Energy Regulator of South Africa for.

GROWTH IMBALANCE

Growth in the economy of 6% a year, which was government's target by 2010, would translate into growth in electricity demand of some 4% a year.

Meanwhile, Eskom's generating capacity was only growing at about 3% a year until 2012, stated Etzinger.

He said that the country needed swift intervention on the regulatory and policy side to help ease the situation.

Government already had draft legislation that would prevent the sale of inefficient incandescent light bulbs and the transfer of houses without solar water heaters.

Eskom had already started a programme that would see it roll out 21-million energy efficient light bulbs around the country, in exchange for old incandescent ones. The poor would be the biggest beneficiaries of this.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Researcher and Deputy Editor Online
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