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LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE
24 May 2006
ESKOM ON CAPE RECOVERY PLAN: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms M Themba (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Cape Recovery Plan Update presentation: Part 1 & 2
Eskom met with the Committee to provide an update on the Cape Recovery Plan. Key challenges were outlined and steps to address problems explained. Detail was presented on the Koeberg recovery plan. Energy saving initiatives would continue. Demand-side management would remain a priority and additional energy plants would be constructed.
Members asked various questions including the relationship between the City of Cape Town and Eskom, the connection with France, the feasibility of reopening the Athlone power station, the use of gas to reduce electricity demand, the problem of unregulated property development in increasing demand, the value of Eskom’s communication plan and the need for more power stations in Mpumalanga.
Mr J Maroga provided detail on challenges and key mitigating activities. Predicted weekly shortfall was communicated. Key recovery activities were explained. Load shedding would occur when demand exceeded supply. Koeberg repairs were progressing well and leased-in generation was on track. Energy savings in various areas were outlined. Medium term plans for recovery included demand-side management and the construction of energy plants.
Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC) advocated that, in future, Members should meet with ESKOM, the Department of Minerals and Energy and RED 1 implementation team together so that a complete understanding of the process could be acquired. She sought clarity on the lifespan of CFLs and the relationship between Eskom and the City of Cape Town. The advantages of the use of guesser blankets had to be outlined. The use of gas in informal settlements could have disastrous consequences.
Mr J Sibiya (ANC) sought clarity on the damage caused to Koeberg’s Unit 1 reactor. Apparently, mist and fog had caused conduction and insulation had been installed to prevent further problems. He asked whether a back-up plan was in place should the insulation not be effective. Clarity was sought on the need to import the spare generator from France. He asked whether Eskom’s supply to neighbouring countries had been adversely affected by the reactor damage.
Mr Hendricks asked why Unit 2 was being switched off at this juncture. Athlone power station could be redeveloped to meet increasing demand. He noted the campaign to encourage consumers to use gas and asked whether the same could not be done for solar power.
The Chairperson sought feedback on the project to issue double hotplates and whether a timeframe existed fro the supply of blankets.
Mr Maroga stated that fog and mist had caused a problem with the transmission grid. France had similar nuclear stations to Koeberg and had possessed a spare rotor at the time. The reintroduction of the Athlone power station was not feasible. Unit 1 had been damaged in December after a refueling exercise. Insulators were being upgraded to deal with high levels of fog and mist. Protracted negotiations between Heads of State had been necessary to secure the replacement rotor. Nuclear reactors required refueling at certain points to continue operating. The efficient light bulbs were issued for free and low income communities were targeted. 5 million homes would be covered in the Western Cape. The bulbs consumed only a third of the energy of normal bulbs and could last four times longer. Approximately, 2,1 million had been issued thus far. Eskom had planned in consultation with the City of Cape Town and the RED 1 management team. Gas was supplied in collaboration with established gas suppliers and safety was a high priority. Gas was efficient in terms of heating and cooking. Solar heaters were not viable in the short term as they could not generate sufficient power. Detail on demand-side management would be forwarded to Members.
The Chairperson asked whether power alerts would also appear on the radio to reach a wide audience.
Mr Maroga replied that radio had already been used in the Eastern Cape together with relevant newspapers. Eskom intended to make more use of radio in the near future. Namibia was the only country that would have been adversely affected by power disruptions. An interruptable contract was in place with Namibia that meant that megawatts intended for Namibia could be re-diverted to South Africa when required. Other neighbouring states were not affected by the disruptions in the Western Cape.
Ms S Chen (DA) asked whether over-development in certain areas had contributed to increased demand.
Mr Maroga concurred that localised distribution problems occurred in certain areas where local infrastructure was unable to meet demand. Further development had been prohibited in sensitive areas.
The Chairperson asked whether a contingency plan existed for Mpumalanga if the power station failed.
Mr Maroga stated that power supply was managed to avoid tripping. It was unlikely that an entire power station could trip. Contingency plans would be irrelevant as power supply would be severely disrupted by such an event. The Mpumalange power station depended on road transportation of coal that was intermittent due to poor road conditions. The provincial government was co-operating to improve road conditions. Alternative sources of power generation were being considered as coal had adverse environmental consequences. A lack of large rivers negated any plan for hydro-electric power generation.
Mr Hendricks questioned the projected costs involved to restore Athlone power station.
The Chairperson sought clarity on Eskom’s communication campaign to raise awareness of energy supply problems and the need for energy conservation.
Mr Maroga replied that extensive discussions had taken place with various Chambers of Commerce to communicate the need for energy conservation to members. The cost factors for the Athlone power station were not available as the City of Cape Town owned the facility.
The meeting was adjourned.
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