South Africa may face power black-outs in 2011-2012

Dec 03, 2009 01:00 AM

South Africa may face rolling black-outs, known as load-shedding, in 2011 and 2012 as the electricity system becomes "vulnerable" because of increased demand, according to Eskom Holdings.
In those years the gap between generation capacity and demand will narrow "below comfortable levels, leaving the system vulnerable to worse than expected plant performance and higher than planned for demand," the state-owned utility said. "This increases the risk of load-shedding."

Eskom asked for regulatory approval to increase electricity tariffs by 35 % a year for the next three years to reduce an 80 bn rand ($ 10.9 bn) funding gap in its five-year, 385 bn-rand expansion plan. The utility stopped supplying power to many of South Africa's mines and smelters for five days in January 2008 as it struggled to meet demand in Africa's biggest economy.
"A worse-than-planned generation performance will result in higher risk and reduce system adequacy, especially during 2011 and 2013," said Eskom, which supplies about 95 % of South Africa's power.

Eskom expects the first unit of its 4,764-MW Medupi coal-fired power plant to be operational by April 2012, which will ease capacity constraints.
Electricity demand in South Africa declined earlier this year as mines and smelters, amongst the country's largest users, cut production as South Africa's economy slid into its first recession in 17 years amid a global economic slowdown. The country's economy came out of recession in the third quarter, according to Statistics South Africa.

Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata are among companies that own assets in South Africa, the world's third-largest gold miner and the largest source of coal for European power plants.
The country is also the world's biggest producer of platinum, chrome, vanadium and manganese.

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