Cover story

Alone in the dark

South Africa`s power crisis promises to have significant long-term impact. In the short term, however, everyone is scrambling just to keep the lights on.

01 March 2008

Although growth in electricity demand is only projected to exceed generation capacity by approximately the year 2007, long-capacity expansion lead times require strategies to be in place in the mid-term, in order to meet the needs of the growing economy." This statement from page 41 of the Department of Minerals and Energy's 1998 white paper on energy policy for this country has been rightly highlighted as a timely warning ignored by government.

In 1997 and 1998, Eskom was running at 75 percent of its capacity, the international standard for power utilities. Eskom executives asked for permission to expand their infrastructure as capacity approached the 85-percent mark - and was denied. In the climate of privatisation that prevailed at the time, Eskom was just another parastatal that was being considered for exposure to real competition on the supply side. Government's contending goals were that Eskom was to continue to reduce the real cost of energy without being permitted to build any additional capacity, all the while threatening foreign direct investment into the country's power pool.

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