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Jan 21, 2008

NEC calls for ‘national response plan' to deal with power cuts

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The urgent development of a "national response plan" to cope with the crippling power outages experienced throughout South Africa emerged as a prominent issue at the African National Congress' National Executive Committee (NEC) lekgotla over the weekend.

The NEC recognised that it would be "some time" before any new electricity generation capacity would come on line, and would thus need to develop a response plan, which would implement an electricity conservation programme focusing on energy efficiency.

"The plan should move the nation towards more efficient energy utilisation and prevent a negative impact on the economy, our people and our agenda for growth and development," the NEC said in a statement.

It was likely that the energy crisis would feature prominently on the agenda at the Cabinet lekgotla, which was scheduled for January 22 to January 24.

Presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga told Engineering News Online that President Thabo Mbeki had a meeting with Eskom management, including CEO Jacob Maroga, on Sunday night. Mbeki was briefed on the situation, but no plans were defined. “Cabinet will make a pronouncement on the issue at the upcoming lekgotla,” Ratshitanga said.

The call for a national response plan comes after a week of intensive power shortages, load shedding and blackouts as the national electricity utility, Eskom, struggles to meet the country's increasing energy demands.

In a frenzy to provide solutions, Eskom and the Department of Minerals and Energy have urged consumers to reduce demand for energy. Demothballing of certain power stations, left unused from the eighties was also under way, as well the construction of new power stations to upscale capacity. However, new power stations would only be up-and-running after 2010.

Maroga would meet on Monday with the country's top industrial customers to discuss the power shortages and possible solutions.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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