SA risks new power cuts, says minister

South Africa may face fresh power cuts early in 2009 because the level of voluntary energy savings has fallen “woefully” below the required 10%, new Minister for Public Enterprises Brigitte Mabandla said.

State-owned utility Eskom, which provides 95% of the country’s power, has been rationing electricity since January, when the national grid nearly collapsed.

The utility has agreed voluntary cuts with big power consumers to reduce their demand by up to 10% of their normal power requirements.

“The current level of savings nationally, currently on a voluntary basis, has declined to about 2% from about 5%,” Mabandla told Reuters.

“This falls woefully short of the 10% efficiency correction needed to provide the necessary “breathing space” or reserve margin to stabilise the system,” she said in an emailed response to questions.

“Should the necessary savings levels not be achieved, then the risk of load shedding [power cuts] to prevent system-wide blackouts increases massively going into 2009 and beyond.”

She said that under new rules, a penalty would be imposed as from January next year for consumers using more than the required limit of 90% of their normal power requirements.

The electricity crisis has dented economic growth by cutting output from mines and big manufacturers, which are operating with about 90% of their normal power supply.—Reuters


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