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Eskom threatens full blackout

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Electricity prices will certainly double within the next five years – and could even increase beyond that. And the alternative could be a full blackout. 

That's the word from Jacob Maroga, CE of Eskom Holdings who addressed a Mail & Guardian business breakfast this morning.
Coming on the last day of the Nersa (National Energy Regulator of SA) hearings into a proposed 53% increase in tariffs, Maroga used the platform to press Eskom's case for massive increases in the short-term.
He holds out the spectre of a total blackout if South Africans cannot decrease demand or come up with the money for massive infrastructure developments.
"What happens if there is a full balckout is that the entire system collapses – and when this happens it could take two weeks to recover."
Maroga had little new information to add to what has been extensively bandied about for the past few weeks, but did assure delegates that the electricity producer is working to improve the number and quality of skilled employees.
"In 2004 we undertook a big re-organisation to ring-fence the skills we would require for big build projects," he says.
"We are also partnering with international players who can bring in skilled personnel who will then transfer skills to our employees.
"Skills is still a big issue but we are making significant progress with our partnering model."
Maroga also held out some hope for future electricity generating projects based on renewable fuel sources.
"I agree that now is the time for renewables, and we need to create a framework wherein individuals can invest. We are not there yet but I agree, yes."
Maroga used the platform to explain about reserve margin and how this safety barrier has been declining steadily over the last few years.
Contrary to popular belief, however, he says the organiation hasn't been sitting on its hands, but has added 2 565Mw to the grid since 2004, with a number of other projects in various stages of completion.
By September this year, the Komati power station will be recommissioned, while the Camden and Grootvlei operations will be back online by the end of this year.
Since the national emergency was declared on 24 January, Eskom has been working to ensure continued electricity supply.
"In the short-term we have completed a significant planned maintenance programme and have continued to build up coal supplies," says Maroga.