- Namibia's power utility NamPower yesterday warned that if Namibia could not meet the shortfall of the currently limited power imports from South Africa, it would be forced to introduce load-shedding - alternating power outages between areas. Power supply has so far mostly been stable in Namibia, creating predictable conditions for businesses and households.
NamPower yesterday encouraged Namibians to use electricity prudently to prevent a collapse of the supply system because of the decrease in imports from South Africa. In a statement issued by NamPower Managing Director Leake Hangala, he said load-shedding was the only way to prevent the collapse and complete shutdown of the power network, but that the utility hoped for co-operation from consumers as the preferred option to make the best use of the available energy.
"Namibia is on the brink of experiencing power-supply shortages. NamPower has been successful in minimising the impact on Namibia," he said. "However, it would not be able to continue doing so indefinitely," he added.
Until the Koeberg nuclear power station in Cape Town experienced a breakdown of one of its units in December, Namibia was importing about 60 percent of its energy needs from South Africa. South Africa generates more than 75 percent of the electricity used in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
NamPower said the precarious power situation was being exacerbated by the low water flow in the Kunene River - far north at the Angolan border - which meant that it could not run its hydropower station at Ruacana around the clock.
"This may result at times in NamPower not having access to enough energy to meet Namibia's local demand. In order to prevent the complete Namibian electricity system from shutting down, NamPower will be forced to compensate for the shortfall between supply and demand of energy by implementing a number of demand-side management measures," said the NamPower statement.
Among the saving measures proposed by NamPower is switching off unused lights and swimming-pool pumps during peak consumer hours, reducing the temperature of geysers and usage of clothes irons and stoves during these hours. Peak hours are between 07h00 and 11h00 and 17h00 and 21h00 for small and large electricity consumers alike. Namibian households were also being encouraged to replace ordinary light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
NamPower said all anticipated power interruptions would be communicated to the public beforehand. The Namibian electricity supplier added that it had been informed by South African power utility Eskom that it hoped to have both its units at Koeberg back in operation within the next four months. Currently the only operating unit is scheduled to undergo maintenance next month.
In a media statement issued by Eskom on Friday, it said it planned to have Koeberg Unit 1 repaired before Unit 2 has to be serviced and refuelled, a process scheduled to take 59 days. Eskom said it had managed to procure all the spare parts required to fix Unit 1 - including a 200-ton rotor that will be shipped from France.
Said Eskom Chief Executive Officer Thulani Gcabashe: "Our key focus is to ensure that at least one unit of Koeberg is running at all times. We plan to synchronise Koeberg 1 to the grid in the middle of May and commence the refuelling and maintenance outage of Unit 2 in the third week of May. There will therefore be a week's overlap between starting the operation of Unit 1 and the shutdown of Unit 2."
Over the next three months, Eskom plans to run Koeberg Unit 2 at a decreasing power output until the refuelling and maintenance shutdown towards the end of May. Since last month, the Western Cape has been forced to go without power for several hours a day, causing mayhem in businesses and on the roads and halting normal household activity. Eskom plans to spend rand 115 million to improve supply to the Cape by replacing insulators and buying mobile generation plants and generators for use during winter.
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