Eskom silent on contingency plan for a national blackout

The utility announced on Monday that a unit at Koeberg power station should be operational by the end of the week. (David Harrison, M&G)

The utility announced on Monday that a unit at Koeberg power station should be operational by the end of the week. (David Harrison, M&G)

Eskom on Monday would not divulge what plans it has in the event of a national blackout.

This was after Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille warned in her SA Today column that a nationwide power blackout would result in “catastrophe”.

According to reports Eskom has warned Cabinet about the risk of a national blackout.

Zille defined a blackout as “what happens when the grid fails and everything shuts down indefinitely”.

Eskom has repeatedly said that rotational power cuts – or load-shedding – were necessary to prevent a total blackout. Previously the parastatal indicated such a situation could take around two weeks to resolve.

Zille said that if the national power grid was hit with a blackout, a “huge amount” of electricity would need to be sourced from elsewhere to restart the grid. “This is not available from any of our neighbours.”

Asked about the validity of Zille’s claim and to what extent Eskom has planned for this possibility, aside from implementing power cuts as a preventative measure, the parastatal would not disclose details.

“The reason why we conduct load-shedding is in order to avoid a blackout, and we will continue to implement load-shedding to protect the grid as this is the best way to protect the power system,” Eskom’s media desk said in an email.

Public urged to use power sparingly
Meanwhile the utility announced on Monday that a unit at Koeberg power station is undergoing tests in preparation for being restarted.

“Eskom technicians are in the process of performing start-up tests in an effort to bring back to service unit one of the Koeberg power station,” it said in a statement.

The unit, which produces 900MW, was taken offline on Sunday due to a technical fault.

Earlier on Monday Eskom said the power grid was under pressure as a result of the failure of the unit.

“Unit one is expected to be fully operational by the end of this week, which will increase capacity going into the weekend.”

However, acting chief executive Dan Marokane said the unit would be taken offline again next Monday for scheduled maintenance.

“The unit will still go out on a scheduled shutdown on Monday 9 February 2015, and is expected to return back to service at the end of May,” he said.

“The scheduled shutdown of Koeberg unit one is part of Eskom’s overall maintenance programme for its fleet of power stations.”

Unit two was operating at full power, producing 930MW for the grid.

Marokane urged the public to use power sparingly.

“We request sustained savings as we continue with our maintenance plan and efforts to balance demand and supply.” – Sapa

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