17 January 2015, Johannesburg – With the increase in electricity demand, load shedding remains a reality for the near future for South Africa, says power utility Eskom.
Matona spent most of his weekly meeting with board members and business stakeholders briefing them on what to expect in terms of electricity supply.
“The system will remain tight in summer. Risks of extreme weather related outages such as wet coal, unplanned outage extensions and unavailability of primary energy may worsen the situation. Therefore, the country needs to be prepared for load shedding,” he said.
Referring to load shedding as “painful”, Matona said it was a necessary decision to protect the electricity power system from total blackout.
“A total blackout would have significant consequences on the South African economy,” he said.
Last Friday, the utility again started stage one load shedding in some areas of the country as a result of high demand and urgent maintenance being performed at some power stations.
In addition to the wet weather in some parts of the country, most businesses have also started operating this week after the holidays and inland schools have reopened. This has put more pressure on the grid.
Ageing infrastructure has been an issue for Eskom. Matona said maintenance was a big challenge as the company had not stayed faithful to its “maintenance religion”.
He said the “keeping the lights on” philosophy has created a culture whereby proactive maintenance has become less important.
“Our equipment has become so unreliable and risk of a breakdown is a constant reality,” he said, adding that it would take years to reverse the problem.