Save energy to prevent blackouts

28 February 2008 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

UCT Professor Anton Eberhard says that all sectors of the economy need to play a role to restore electricity supply in South Africa

The power crisis could drag on for several years and all sectors of the economy need to play a role to restore electricity supply in South Africa, Professor Anton Eberhard said at a presentation at the Graduate School of Business this week.

"Eskom can't do it alone. Electricity savings, industrial cogeneration and independent power projects are now essential for restoring electricity supply security," said Eberhard in his lecture, South Africa's Power Crisis: understanding its causes and assessing prospects.

In a packed Exhibition Hall at the GSB, Eberhard, the director of the management programme in infrastructure reform and regulation at the school, revealed that the reason for the massive power outages was that the electricity reserve margin has not been maintained, having gone down from 31% in 1994 to 6% in 2007.

"The main reason for that is that between 2001 and 2004 the government envisaged a competitive market with private participation, and stopped Eskom from investing in power stations."

Eberhard, a former board member of the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa, believes that it is not true that the private sector was not interested to participate.

"There are 40 independent power projects underway in Africa," he said, "many of them in countries with investment climates much more challenging than South Africa's."

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