South Africa’s electricity shortfall is expected to endure for the next five years, Eskom regional key account manager Johan Pfister said on Thursday.
Speaking at the fourth South African Ferro-alloys Conference, in Johannesburg, he said collaboration was needed with business to close the current supply gap, through the addition of new capacity and the implementation of demand-side management solutions.
Eskom viewed demand management and energy efficiency as the least costly and most environmental-friendly short-term solution to addressing the shortfall. By contrast, the over use of open-cycle gas turbines to mitigate the risks was expensive and would ultimately increase the price of electricity.
“It will not be possible to connect large expansions until we have the capacity, negatively affecting current economic development. South Africa’s sustainability, reputation and competitiveness will be negatively affected and pressure to reduce supply to neighbouring countries could have negative political implications,” he said.
Further, the country would suffer reputational damage, which would translate into a lost opportunity to unlock economic growth and job creation through more efficient use of electricity.
Should demand not be moderated voluntarily, Eskom believed the only remaining workable solution would be a mandatory energy conservation scheme.
“Numerous large customers are already participating in a voluntary scheme. It has been proposed that a mandatory scheme may be necessary as a last resort to prevent disruptive load shedding, but this would be a government decision,” he stressed.
Eskom had signed up 376 MW through the medium term power purchase programme, in which it has agreements with Sasol for 240 MW, 35 MW from Sappi, 13 MW from Ipsa, 85 MW from Tangent and 2.6 MW from TSB Sugar.
The State-owned enterprise was also supporting two municipalities to operate their generation plants, where Pfister said 515 MW was signed up and about 300 MW was currently operational.
In total about 600 MW of the contracted 891 MW of non-Eskom generation was in production through the most recent winter period.
He said the recent economic downturn has provided temporary relief, however demand was on the increase.
“The peak demand and total energy sent out is almost back to levels seen in 2007, before the recession. There is a 2.7% growth in GWh sales in 2010/11 and year-to-date growth is lower than the forecast of 2%,” he said.