The government will do everything in its power to avoid power outages, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday.

“We do have long-term plans. Government remains resolute that the country should never go through another period of painful rotational load shedding as experienced in the past,” Gigaba told reporters in Pretoria.

“We will do everything in our power to avoid load shedding and blackouts… The next 18 months are expected to be the tightest we had endured thus far.”

Gigaba said there would be less pressure on the power supply when the first unit of the Medupi power station started working in December 2013.

“In this regard, Eskom is on track,” he said.

The backlog of maintenance at power stations should be eliminated by December 2013. There was a tight balance between the supply and demand of electricity, he said.

“As we enter the winter season, residential customers are increasing their demand, causing significant increases during the evening peak,” Gigaba said.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames said electricity demand peaked daily between 17h00 and 21h00. He said the power system would be constrained over the next few years, particularly until the end of 2013.

“We have been quite clear that we [have] kept the lights on, and that has taken a lot of effort,” said Dames.

“We can’t do this alone – we really have to do this with all of South Africa, given the fact that the demand is increasing and we have not invested early enough.”

The poor quality of coal and maintenance are major problems for Eskom.

Dames said maintenance had to be done on power plants, and older plants required a significant amount of upkeep.

“We are doing maintenance at high levels as we go into winter, to address the backlogs and to improve the safety and reliability of our plants.”

Dames said illegal connections played a big role in winter. They overloaded the system, causing outages.

“We are making a call on all customers and communities to make sure that we deal with the issue of illegal connections,” said Dames.

The government had unveiled new and integrated infrastructure investment strategies aimed at expanding the South African economy during difficult global economic times, Gigaba said.

“In order to get South Africa working, growing and moving, at the heart of these plans stand the expansion of our electricity infrastructure.

“[This is] in order to support economic growth as well as the goals of job creation and economic development.”

President Jacob Zuma will be taken to Medupi next week to observe the pressure test in the plant’s first boiler.


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