Tag: loadshedding

South Africa could be heading for yet another dark period, with an Eskom strike drawing near, according to The South African.

Having just recently posted a record-breaking R20-billion loss in the last financial year, the struggle power utility is now facing labour disputes.

Between 180 and 200 senior managers are dragging the utility before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after not receiving salary increases and incentive bonus in the past year. The managers earn between R1.5 million and R3 million per annum.

Eskom recently granted middle managers a 4,7% increase, but they are dissatisfied and are looking for 7,5%.

Yet a recent report on eNCA states that 365 senior employees have had lifestyle audits conducted on them.

Eskom’s vast wage bill, its poor financial management and its uncontrollable debt mean that load-shedding is likely imminent. The utility is struggling to generate sufficient supply – something that will anger South Africans as rumours of a deal brokered with neighbouring Zimbabwe to supply 400MW of power per week.

 

Eskom is in a ‘death spiral’

This is a week that the beleaguered power utility would rather forget.

Net losses
Yesterday the state-owned enterprise posted net losses after tax of R20.7-billion.
These losses were due to:

  • Municipal debt rising to R20-billion
  • NERSA only granting a 5.23% tariff increase
  • Sales declining by 1.82%
  • Wage settlements with unions that were above inflation

Soweto residents demand flat fee
The residents of Soweto, who combined owe Eskom more than R18-billion in unpaid fees, have demanded that prices for unlimited electricity be capped at R100 for each resident:

  • Soweto residents demand that their debt be written off
  • Of the estimated residents in Soweto, Eskom currently supplies 135 000 with legally connected power
  • Only 12% (16 2200) of these customers pay for electricity
  • Debt from the area has risen from R3.6 billion in 2014 to its current level of R18-billion
  • Eskom is threatening to disconnect non-paying customers, remove illegal connections, and move more houses to prepaid electricity
  • Soweto residents are fighting back, launching Operation Khanyisa which sees trained local members illegally reconnecting houses for no charge

Kusile in crisis
Construction on the coal-fire power station Kusile began 11 years ago, in 2008. However, not one unit is currently working:

  • All six 800 MW generator units are offline
  • Five years behind schedule, only Unit 1 at Kusile has been handed over for commercial service
  • Units 2 and 3 are still undergoing testing and commissioning
  • Major design, execution and operational problems are being experienced

Load-shedding looms
Based on the factors mentioned above, a number of industry experts believe load-shedding will reappear towards the end of August:

  • Major issues with Eskom’s new power plants haven’t been resolved
  • Debt is mounting
  • Generation remains a massive challenge for Eskom, and capacity is limited
  • Operational issues have not been addressed

 

Zimbabwe begins loadshedding

By Crecey Kuyedzwa for Fin24

Zimbabwe has started to institute planned rotational power cuts to reduce stress on its national grid, following low water levels at Kariba Dam, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station and limited imports from Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique.

Power utility Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission & Distribution Company on Sunday published load shedding schedules for the whole of the country.

“The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand,” it said in a weekend statement.

While Eskom in South Africa has eight stages of load shedding, Zimbabwe has announced only two stages for now.

The power supplier divided the country into seven regions, and then further into districts or suburbs. It has given each district or suburb a numerical code.

This code is then checked against a regional table which has two time periods: Morning peak – between 05:00 and 10:00, and evening peak, between 17:00 and 22:00.

When power is cut, suburbs that fall within the time period lose power.

The same suburbs or districts will not generally have power cuts over the same day’s morning and evening peaks. When load shedding moves to Stage 2 and “increases beyond the planned limit” power to additional suburbs will be cut. The power cuts will be in five or eight hour blocks in different areas of the region or district.

Zimbabwe has had to implement power cuts, in part, due to poor rainfall in 2018 and 2019 that led to reduced inflows into Kariba Dam. The dam’s hydroelectric power stations supply electricity to both Zimbabwe and Zambia

Over the years Zimbabwe has been topping up its power supply by importing an average 100MW of power from Eskom and Mozambique, but will be forced to look for more given the current crisis.

Power imports from South Africa’s Eskom also cannot be guaranteed, with the power utility facing a fair share of its own challenges.

Analysts say the impact of the power cuts will be significant to industry, which cannot easily turn to the use of generators amid limited availability of fuel.

By Tom Head for The South African

South Africa could be set for another round of drama from Eskom, as the ailing power utility has reportedly failed to receive R7 billion in loan payments initially set to come from the Chinese Development Bank (CDB).

That’s according to City Press, who have reported that the creditors do not trust their promises over proposed maintenance work. It would be the second time in just over two weeks that one of Eskom’s promised loans failed to materialise after the Brics New Development Bank also did not part with their billions.

Why haven’t Eskom received the loan?
On Easter Friday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni was forced to grant the power giants an emergency bailout in order to meet salary demands and diesel costs. It’s reported that the CDB has taken note of their actions, and fear that this particular instalment of their cash will be used to plug holes, rather than go towards maintenance.

The loan in question will come to R33 billion in total, and it has been earmarked for the development of the Medupi and Kusile power plants. The new builds are yet to get up to full speed, and they’re struggling to produce the amount of electricity needed to keep South Africa illuminated as more “old units” come to the end of their lifespans.

Load shedding fears resurface
Eskom is very much living hand-to-mouth at the moment. In fact, some of their biggest critics believe this will be the last week where the lights stay on: Natasha Mazzone of the DA has accused the firm of diverting funds from long-term projects in order to keep voters happy before the general election this Wednesday.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has also refused to rule out the return of load shedding this winter, despite unveiling plans to nip it in the bud at the beginning of April. We’ve already seen how one defaulted payment can spark a financial crisis, so a second one within two weeks is a terrible omen for the company… and its consumers.

SA blackouts may cut growth close to zero

By Rene Vollgraaff and Londell Phumi Ramalepe for Bloomberg/Fin24

South Africa’s power cuts could bring economic growth for the year close to zero if they continue at the same severity seen in March, the central bank said.

The wave of rolling blackouts that started in November and are among the worst the country has yet experienced could knock 1.1 percentage point off economic growth, the Reserve Bank said in its Monetary Policy Review released Wednesday in Pretoria, the capital.

Expansion of close to zero would be the worst outcome since 2009, when former President Jacob Zuma came to power.

The nation’s embattled power utility, Eskom, implemented so-called stage 4 load-shedding, which removed about 10% from the grid, last month as ageing plants were offline. The company is battling with high debt levels and declining revenue after years of financial mismanagement. It was at the center of alleged looting under the previous administration that’s referred to locally as state capture.

“It has become clearer, however, that the legacy of state capture of which load shedding is one symptom will constrain growth for a longer period,” the Reserve Bank said. “The damage done by state capture is worse than previously understood.”

The country’s economy went through a recession last year and hasn’t expanded at more than 2% annually since 2013. Growth will only pick up once domestic constraints are dealt with, Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo said in a presentation after the release of the Monetary Policy Review. Gross domestic product increased 0.8% in 2018.

The central bank pointed out that its estimates, which also show 125 000 jobs could be lost, assume load shedding will persist at high levels throughout the year, and don’t incorporate longer-term costs such as forfeited investment.

“It’s unclear to what extent firms and household have now made their own plans to manage or avoid their reliance on Eskom, which could mitigate growth costs,” the Reserve Bank said.

How rolling blackouts affected the economy

BankservAfrica’s monthly Economic Transaction Index (Beti), a broad indicator of the country’s economic health, showed that transactions declined by 0.4% from February to March.

“The March Beti declined across all measurement periods,” says Shergeran Naidoo, BankservAfrica’s head of stakeholder engagements, in a statement. Naidoo said the numbers are a clear indication of the “deteriorating state of the economy”.

According to a recent article in MoneyWeb,  Eskom’s load shedding in March hit the economy hard. Individual transactions increased in value but decreased in number during this period.

The standardised nominal value of the Beti was R875.7-billion while the average value per transaction was R8 444. This is the first nominal rise in 23 months, said Naidoo. This rise, however, is due to VAT refunds paid in March.

“Without the nearly R20-billion worth of VAT repayments paid into the National Payments System, the March Beti would have been worse off.”

Behind the EskomSePush loadshedding app

Source: 2OceansVibe

Nowadays, load shedding is as much a part of South African culture as using “now-now” to indicate your time of arrival.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Which is why when we heard about load shedding app EskomSePush last year, we knew it was going to be big.

Now it looks like the rest of South Africa has caught up.

Moving on to MyBroadband for more on the guys behind the app, and the humble beginnings of what’s been called one of “South Africa’s favourites”.

In 2014, Herman Maritz and Dan Wells were working in the same office, building apps for banks. They both wanted to know when load-shedding was taking place so that they could plan around it.

To achieve this, they began using PushBullet – a service that allowed them to send themselves notifications when load-shedding began.

This service was soon extended to their friends and family, after which they spent a weekend writing the initial app – which they named EskomSePush.

The name was in part inspired by conference calls talking about “push notifications”.

“Some of these meetings had folks with Afrikaans accents and the word ‘Push’ always made our day,” he added.

“The name was definitely inspired by some of those banking folks. But simply put, it’s Push Notifications for Eskom. EskomSePush.”

Six weeks after the app was released, it had acquired over 100 000 users.

Since load shedding started up again last year, and again this year, and is probably only going to get worse, an app like this is bound to go from strength to strength.

As of March 28, 2019, EskomSePush had 1,2 million users.

Maritz and Wells have three pieces of advice for anybody hoping to create their own viral app.

Firstly, users should make simple choices – even if it hurts.

“When starting out you need to iterate fast to find out which ideas work best. This means some of the things you’ve built might not be perfect. But you need to try out a lot of things to see what works,” they said.

They added that when they started to encounter scaling issues, they looked at their original code and were heavily critical of it.

“But, even though we would approach the problem differently now, the code still runs,” said Maritz.

Secondly, patience is the key to success. When load shedding was suspended in 2015, Maritz thought the app would cease to be useful. Wells, however, decided to keep the servers running and we’re all really glad that he did.

The pair have now launched EskomSePush’s “Nearby Chat” feature which allows you to talk to other people in your area.

For those times when you aren’t sure if it’s load shedding or if you forgot to load electricity…

You can download the app here.

You can also find more tips and tricks for staying sane during load shedding here, and here.

By Sibongile Khumalo for Fin24

Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan says that Eskom has come up with a detailed winter plan that includes several possible scenarios.

Gordhan said the first scenario was if no load shedding was implemented.

“In this instance, we will ensure that unplanned outages or breakdowns are kept to less than 9500MW and that planned outages are within this range of 3000MW to 5000MW, so that we have some flexibility.

“In scenario 2, if outplanned outages go beyond 9500MW, a maximum of 26 days of Stage 1 load shedding (will take place) throughout this whole five month period,” he said.

There was also the expectation that the coal plants, Medupi and Kusile would soon be able to contribute in a more significant way, hopefully by the end of April.

The media was also told that power plants generally performed better during the cooler conditions in winter.

Gordhan along with Eskom board chairman Jabu Mabuza was briefing the media on the state of SA’s electricity supply.

This follows a previous briefing about two weeks ago.

At the time the country was in the midst of Stage 4 load shedding, which lasted for several days.

The power supply was so constrained that Eskom also implemented Stage 2 load shedding during the night.

Gordhan could not say then when load shedding would come to an end, but said they would know more within 10-14 days after the technical review team had had the opportunity to access the power plants.

Eskom has previously blamed ageing power plants and insufficient maintenance, among other things, for the spate of load shedding.

Source: MyBroadband

Load-shedding continued to plague South Africa this month, and one of the reasons for Eskom’s electricity shortage is the damage caused to burners by poor-quality coal.

Cosatu General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali recently said rocks instead of coal were supplied to one of Eskom’s power stations, which caused damage to the burners.

This damage caused unplanned outages and electricity shortages which forced Eskom to implement load-shedding.

An Eskom engineer working at a power station confirmed that poor-quality coal which contains rocks caused serious damage to their equipment.

He added that in December, four of the six turbines at the power station he works at were seized up because of this problem.

“The piping that is supposed to transfer steam to the turbines from the boilers has ruptured due to the wrong grade of coal being used, that contains rocks that have exploded,” he said.

Rocks sold as coal
SABC News recently published photos of rocks which one of Eskom’s suppliers were trying to sell to the power utility as coal.

LontohCoal CEO Tshepo Kgadima told SABC News that the photos came from trucks which tried to deliver these rocks as coal to Eskom’s Hendrina Power Station in Mpumalanga.

“That is not coal. That is a lump of crushed rock which cannot be milled and cannot combust under any circumstances,” said Kgadima.

He said these trucks were thankfully turned away, but added that it highlights the challenges which exist at Eskom’s power stations.

“How is it possible that the power plant operators do not know the geological conditions of the mines where they are supposed to get their coal from?” he asked.

These rocks are shown below.

How loadshedding affects your security

By Ntwaagae Seleka for News24

Home owners and businesses have been urged to test their security systems as a matter of urgency and to pay particular attention to the battery back-up systems during load shedding periods.

“Many people are under the incorrect assumption that their home alarm system is deactivated when the power supply is interrupted. However, if you have a stable and correctly programmed system coupled with a battery that is in good condition, it will continue to protect the premises during a power outage – regardless if the outage is because of load shedding or not,” said Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.

The only time it may not function correctly is if there is a technical issue, or the battery power is low.

“Most modern alarm systems have a back-up battery pack that activates automatically when there is a power failure. There are a number of practical steps that can be taken to ensure security is not compromised during any power cuts.

“Some of these include ensuring that the alarm system has an adequate battery supply, that all automated gates and doors are secured and lastly to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your security provider or the South African Police Service,” said Hattingh.

With the added inconvenience of the lights going out at night due to power cuts, candles and touch-lights are handy alternatives.

Home owners are also advised that it is important that their alarm systems have adequate battery supply and that batteries should be checked regularly. Alarms should be checked during extended power outages to keep systems running.

Power cuts can affect fire systems and fire control systems, so these also need to be checked regularly. The more frequent use of gas and candles can increase the risk of fire and home fire extinguishers should be on hand.

People are urged to remain vigilant during power cuts and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and report this to their security company or the police immediately.

Hattingh said home and business owners should consider installing Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, which is integrated into the alarm system’s wiring and automatically switches on for a maximum of 15 minutes when there is a power outage.

“If there is an additional battery pack, the small, non-intrusive LED lights can stay on for the duration of the power outage – or a maximum of 40 hours – without draining the primary alarm battery. Because of load shedding, there might also be a higher than usual number of alarm activation signals received by security companies and their monitoring centres.

“This could lead to a delay in monitoring centre agents making contact with customers. You can assist by manually cancelling any potential false alarms caused by load shedding, and thus help call centre agents in prioritising the calls needing urgent attention,” said Hattingh.

 

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