South African energy expert Chris Yelland warned corporates and consumers alike to expect load-shedding and power issues to continue over the medium term and insisted that generation capacity alone was not to blame in a though-provoking keynote address at the inaugural MyBroadband Cloud and Hosting Conference at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, on 9 June.
Yelland said that the ageing existing distribution network was causing many of the outages that were frequently attributed to load hedding. "The non-load-shedding outages are caused by aging infrastructure, a lack of distribution network maintenance, cable theft, and overloading the system because of cable theft." He added that the funds raised from the increased tariffs needed to be directed towards distribution maintenance and refurbishment.
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Yelland claimed that delays in crucial power station facilities coming online were also a contributing factor.
"It is now 2015 and the first unit from Medupi has been synchronised, but it has not been handed over for commercial use yet. We are 12 units behind, and seven years late on the construction of Medupi and Kusile."
He warned that the drop in peak power demand over the last few years had dire consequences for the economy.
"The economy is being constrained. Electricity consumption is a sign of manufacturing output and this is what is declining."
Yelland bemoaned Eskom's increasing lack of transparency in dealing with the media and the public and said that this was an indication that the utility was under extreme pressure. The struggling power supplier has discontinued its bi-weekly status bulletins, which alerted consumers to supply and demand dynamics, planned outages, and unplanned breakdowns.
An award-winning technology journalist, Yelland is also a chartered engineer and produces a number of energy publications under the EE Publishers banner.