If you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky few to have a fuel-powered generator. It’s not environmentally friendly. It’s loud. It’s woefully expensive. But it gets the job done, for now. The nights are cold, and long, and South Africa has been swallowed up by the darkness. The roads are untenable – chaos, mayhem, endless streams of traffic as far as the eye can see. Many businesses have shut down. Inoperable. The cities are paralyzed and crippled. The looting has begun.
Phew, okay, so we’re not quite there yet. Many South Africans, however, are concerned that this may be what’s on the cards for our near future. South Africa’s power utility (now that’s an oxymoron if we’ve ever seen one) is rumoured to be on its last legs. Eskom’s relentless idiocy knows no bounds, and as far as it attempts to bail water, it’s rocking the boat further and further below the surface.
What’s happening in South Africa, right now, is tragic, infuriating and horribly complicated. Let’s see if we can lay it all out, nice and clear, in point form.
Malfeasance, mismanagement and sheer, unbridled idiocy has brought South Africa to where it is, right now. 17 000MW of Eskom’s 47 000MW installed capacity is unavailable, due to ‘unplanned’ breakdowns. Adding to that, Eskom is also missing 7 100MW due to crisis maintenance which could have been avoided, diesel shortages and the inactivity of the cyclone-battered Cahora-Bassa plant.
We’re not even going to mention the delinquency going on at the unreliable, inconsistent Medupi and Kusile plants, built to the wasteful tune of R400 billion, which are over-budget, behind schedule and an overall disaster.
According to electricity expert, Chris Yelland – absolutely.
See, the safety features built into the electricity equipment are there to prevent the catastrophic damage that an overload would cause, and would trigger a blackout in response. According to Yelland:
The system is overloaded, the equipment begins to trip, and while the supply of electricity decreases, the demand remains the same. This, in turn, places even greater strain on the parts of the grid which are still operational, causing these to overload and trip, and so on and so forth.
South Africa will be blown out like a candle in the dark.
A national blackout would put Eskom in a position where it would have to restart power plants without electricity – commonly referred to as a Black Start.
This could take two to three weeks, during which South Africa will be in complete darkness, with no power at all.
How a Black Start works is like this:
Power plants will use some of the electricity they generate to operate crucial equipment, such as the conveyor belts that feed the coal into the furnaces. To start this equipment up, and therefore the power plant, you’ll need to use a small diesel generator to start up a larger generator, and then start parts of the plant.
Careful procedures and protocols will have to be followed. We’re in such good hands.
A blackout will inevitably lead to social unrest, looting, pillaging and horror the likes of which a democratic South Africa has never seen before.
Therefore, the grid has to stay alive. It has to be protected, no matter how idiotic Eskom continues to grow. In a recent briefing, Minister of Public Enterprises and man-with-the-absolute-job-in-the-world, poor Pravin Gordhan, said that the government does not have any answers pertaining to when the load-shedding will end.
More to follow.