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18 Jan 2017

No change in SA’s fragile, failure-prone power grid in 2017

By Jack Ward, MD of Powermode

 

The news that Eskom is owed billions of rand by defaulting municipalities has come as no surprise. Neither has the threat of a return of ‘load shedding’ as South Africa’s power utility turns up the pressure on the defaulters.

Eskom’s cash shortage – caused by many thousands of illegal connections, tardy municipal accounting routines the power utility’s penchant for paying over-the-odds for coal and diesel – has surely impacted on its ability to improve its infrastructure planning and elevate its inadequate maintenance programmes in the coming year.

While consumers in certain municipalities may have to suffer the burden of load shedding until the money is found to pay the bills, their problems will be overshadowed by the often long, unannounced power blackouts caused by grid failures that will continue to be endured, randomly across the country, by frustrated users of Eskom’s increasingly fragile and failure-prone infrastructure.

Fortunately for Eskom, South Africa’s energy requirements have reduced significantly over the past eight years, as factories have downsized or had their expansion plans thwarted. In addition, many planned factories – potential large-scale electricity consumers – have decided to move elsewhere, thus easing the load on the grid.

Of course, should 2017 herald a return to a brighter economy, Eskom will soon find itself hard pressed to meet demand using its creaking infrastructure. In fact, many industry insiders predict that the tipping point – when Eskom is forced to re-introduce wide-spread load shedding (under whatever guise it chooses) – is close at hand.

For organisations relying on a continuous power supply for production, business continuity and profit, the time has come to prepare for the future. They need to determine how effective (or ineffective) their standby power systems are and how bad the consequences of power outages can be.

What’s needed is a significantly deep insight into the operating effectiveness of these critical resources on a 24×7 basis – as delivered so cost-efficiently by Powermode’s ground-breaking PMP system.

The time has come for organisations to reassess their standard country-wide standby power policies and strategies. Today, budgets for standby solutions need to be based on the concept of balancing the investment against return on investment (ROI). To achieve this, accurate monitoring is mandatory. Fortunately, this can now be achieved on a country-wide basis by the PMP.