Medupi Power Station
Medupi Power Station. Source Google Maps.
  • Eskom implemented Stage 2 load shedding on Wednesday, leaving large parts of South Africa in the dark for hours at a time.
  • Business Insider South Africa asked energy expert Ted Blom what Eskom can, and should, be doing to keep the lights on. 
  • He believes load-management for big industrial equipment – and cutting unnecessary jobs at Eskom – can help the power company turn around the supply shortage.
  • For more go to Business Insider.

Eskom on Wednesday announced load shedding stage 2 from 09:00 until 23:00 due to a shortage of capacity – and it looks as if blackouts could continue for at least several more days. 

The latest power supply shortages have been caused by:

  • Five generators being down due to boiler tube leaks
  • A conveyor-belt failure at the Medupi power station, reducing coal supply and output
  • Low diesel and water levels at diesel generators and pumped-storage systems that have been compensating for those breakdowns.

A month ago Eskom said there was no plan for load shedding in September or October.

Business Insider South Africa asked energy expert Ted Blom what Eskom can – and should – be doing to keep the lights on.

Here are his four quick-fix suggestions to help Eskom keep the lights on – rather than struggling for years to come.

1. Install load management devices for industrial geysers used in hotels and similar equipment.

One solution is to install load-management devices for industrial geysers, and other heavy equipment, used in hotels and guest houses. The technology to do so has been around for five years, but never implemented by Eskom, Blom says. 

“It could immediately put us out of Stage 2. This is new technology that can automatically monitor the system and switch off the heavy-usage equipment,” says Blom.

By the time municipalities detect trouble on the grid – and send out "off" signals to ripple switches such as those found in some home geysers – it is too late, Blom says. But newer systems can detect strain on the power grid, immediately throttle back geysers, and then bring them slowly back online when things get better. 

These should be mandatory around the country, Blom says.

2. Cut 30,000 "unnecessary" jobs at Eskom.

Blom maintains that Eskom is seriously overstaffed, and needs the money it pays those people for other purposes.

Eskom can start with managerial positions, he says, cutting back on those who are not hands-on in running power stations.

3. Spend cash freed up – say from a salary bill – on parts and maintenance.

“Proper servicing has not been done since 2010," says Blom.

"For four years hardly any servicing took place and for the balance of the years it’s been patch jobs. Half the stations are offline because they haven’t got parts.”

Putting money into maintenance will show immediate returns, he believes.

4. Stop relying on backup diesel and short-term coal contracts.

Instead of longer-term agreements on coal, Eskom tends to pay high rates for emergency coal supplies, Blom says. When that fails it turns to diesel to run open cycle gas turbines at Ankerlig and Gourikwa.

Both the short-term coal contracts and the huge diesel generators are supposed to be emergency measures, but are regularly used, Blom says.

Sorting out coal in the first place will save huge amounts of money, and reduce uncertainty.

For more, go to Business Insider South Africa.

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