South Africans need to dramatically reduce their electricity usage to prevent rolling blackouts, electricity parastatal Eskom said on Monday.
“We do not have to go back to 2008. We do not want to go back to load-shedding, but we cannot do this alone,” Eskom chief executive Brian Dames told reporters in Johannesburg.
“We need to save 10 percent of our current energy demand and remove 3000 megawatts from our demand to ensure that the power system can operate in a stable mode.”
Dames was speaking at Eskom’s first quarterly update for the year. He said the updates were part of an initiative to be “fully transparent” and proactive in communicating the state of the country’s power system.
“It is like a drought, and everyone is trying to find a way to save water,” Dames said.
“Here, electricity is the oxygen of the economy… the oxygen of the media. We all need a stable power system.”
Dames said Eskom was educating people on how to use electricity efficiently.
“What more can we do? We have tried everything.”
Dames said Eskom had different methods of achieving its 10 percent goal, such as introducing a voluntary energy conservation scheme to 250 of its top customers.
The utility was struggling to maintain a balance between a steady power supply and a growing need to maintain old power stations.
“Most power stations are in mid-life and require increased maintenance; however maintenance has been continually shifted in order to ensure we meet demands,” Dames said.
“The strategy of shifting maintenance outages can no longer be sustained.”
He said Eskom was using open cycle gas turbines and other methods to maintain the balance between supply and demand during maintenance.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, who attended the briefing, said he had breakfast with Eskom’s “biggest clients” on Monday and had urged them to sign a pledge to use energy efficiently.
“The media and people are here to help us make the point that Eskom cannot achieve its goal [by] acting alone,” he said.
“We call on members of the corporate sector, government and every South African to use energy efficiently and save. This will ensure that in 2013 we could gain some relief.”
Gigaba said most power stations were over 30-years-old and needed maintenance.
“If we keep deferring maintenance… we imperil the security of supply. This will go against Eskom’s promise to keep our lights on.”