Cold winter months ‘may strain power grid’

However, Eskom said it would be able to meet energy demands due to increased maintenance and the current low energy consumption.

No load shedding should be expected during level 4 of the lockdown, but the coming cold months might put a damper on things.

Eskom has issued assurances that it was able to meet the energy demands despite the reopening of businesses and people returning to work after easing of the strict lockdown.

Businesses and other sectors opened their doors this week shortly after the country moved to level 4 of the lockdown, during which some economic activities were allowed to resume and more than a million South Africans were expected to return to work.

But this, coupled with the imminent colder winter months, could lead to an increase in energy consumption and the subsequent strain on the power grid.

The mining sector, which opened up the most in terms of the new lockdown regulations, played a “significant role” in energy consumption.

The South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) was concerned that should that happen, and load shedding be implemented, it could lead to devastating consequences when it comes to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“The biggest concern is that a lot of hospital facilities and quarantine facilities such as the one at Nasrec, will require a lot of energy because they will need lighting, heating and ventilators. If we have load shedding while needing to run loads of energy without standby generator capacity, it could be devastating,” said Barry Bredenkamp, Sanedi’s general manager of energy efficiency and corporate communications.

The institute however warned consumers to use power sparingly during the lockdown to avoid any possible scheduled power cuts. As the winter is imminent with millions of people remaining at home, residential power usage could largely contribute to the energy demand on the power grid.

This should be avoided, said Sanedi interim chairperson Nkululeko Buthelezi.

“We therefore encourage all South African households and businesses to use energy wisely, to avoid unnecessary wastage of this valuable resource. Where possible, energy efficient practices must be implemented to lessen the strain and optimise usage.”

But there was nothing to worry about as Eskom would be able to meet the energy demands due to increased maintenance and the current low energy consumption.

The power utility has seen a significant reduction in demand for electricity, which dropped by between 7,500MW and 9,000MW during level 5 lockdown. Since the lockdown, Eskom has doubled short-term maintenance of their generating infrastructure.

“What needs to be stated clearly is that Eskom is able to meet demand and as we have been communicating since the lockdown was implemented, we have ramped up maintenance in order to better meet demand post lockdown,” Eskom said.

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