Pretoria - The extreme cold weather experienced across South
Africa has resulted in a huge increase in national electricity expenditure,
power utility Eskom said on Monday.
Chief executive Brian Dames told a business executives'
meeting in Pretoria that the power consumption bill between 17:00 and 21:00 daily
had been staggering.
"This is what has been happening in this winter. We
know that we are experiencing extreme weather in the country. The big issue for
us (Eskom) is about the time between 5pm and 9pm every night," he said.
"Between 5 o'clock and around 7.30 in the evening every
night we use as much electricity as most of our neighbouring countries combined
just in those few hours. In some cases it's in excess of 3 000 megawatts,"
He said the substantial consumption was largely driven by
the use of swimming pool pumps and electric heaters.
"We have been putting specific tips focused on what's
happening every night and how we can save energy. We don't need swimming pool
pumps running during those hours," he said.
"Every night we are keeping all the power stations
available, just to meet the highest hour at night with the highest demand.
After 9pm most of the stations come down to minimum power (output) - we all go
to bed," said Dames.
"We think as a country we should consider changing our
working hours. We may offer companies special fees and rates to use electricity
from about 10 at night to 4 o'clock in the morning," he said.
Dames said the power utility had been well prepared for the
emergencies during the snow and severe storms in parts of the Eastern Cape,
KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and Free State.
"We prepared so well for that. Eskom people were
deployed to the remote parts of the country in helicopters and vehicles for the
first time. When the roads were snowed (under), our people were there
already," he said.
Eskom's preparedness ensured minimal disruption of
electricity in the communities affected by snow and storms, said Dames.
However, he lamented the illegal connections to the power
grid, which he said were rampant in the townships, and the theft of cables.
"We do have a challenge in our townships. Most our
communities who experienced not having power in winter... it had to do with
illegal power connections.
"These connections overload our network so we cannot
meet the supply due to uncontrolled demand," he said.
Dames said there had been a steady decline in electricity
usage for the first half of this year, compared to 2011.
"Year on year, we have had a seen a negative
electricity growth of 3%. Electricity use for 2012 has been negative than last
Dames said South Africa had not had enforced power shut
downs caused by a shortage of electricity since April 2008.
"We have had adequate power in the country and demand
has been met. The lights have stayed on this winter, they stayed on during the
last winter and we intend they stay on for the rest of the year," he said.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said the
government is committed to keeping the lights on even though power generation
was under pressure.
"I trust we shall all heed the call for efficient and
prudent usage of electricity. We remain resolute in our efforts to keep the
lights on during this supply-constrained environment we are currently in,"