Energy & Environment

Sunday, 24 July 2011 22:26

Eskom Debacle 'Generates' More Business for Back-up Power Solutions

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In what appears to be along the lines of a soap opera, Eskom is at the centre of a political showdown surrounding the alleged “resignation” of CEO Jacob Maroga, his surprise “re-instatement” and the subsequent shock resignation of the company chair, Bobby Godsell. A number of parties have joined the fray, most notably the ever-present ANC Youth League which has steadfastly announced its support for Maroga.
These events follow the increased debates surrounding the proposed 45% per annum electricity hike for 2010, 2011 and 2012 to fund the R385bn capital expansion programme which many feel a decade overdue, and the fact that Mr Maroga received a R2million bonus to his salary last year.

The negative effect that the proposed tariff hike will place on the economy, apart from the already unsustainable job market and struggling businesses in the stretched thin economy, is just one of the fears that many South Africans are experiencing. They frequently witness the school ground quality of comments, responses, backlashes and reactive announcements between the State-owned entity, the government, and other party-aligned organisations who now feel they have a role in this public debate. The only people not being considered are the shareholders and rate payers, those most affected by the rash decisions being made for them.

In the light of all the questions and opinion swinging, many are considering alternative energy sources – not only distinctly more reliable but also ones which would positively impact the environment. While wind farms and solar energy are options of the future, the infrastructure requirements, costs, power output limitations and apparent restrictions are delaying the implementation of such alternative options, all the while leaving questions of more black-outs and 2010 sustainability looming.

“Once again, this Eskom saga is forcing a return to generator back up”, says Superwatt Managing Director, Patrick Gaertner. “Some benefits of the diesel generators are that they are immediately available and compared to gasoline counterparts have a much longer term value. As diesel engines run cooler and last longer, they can be installed to run for long periods of time in the event of black-outs, or even as a complete alternative.”

Generators can handle large loads of electricity and can be wired to start automatically in the event of a power outage. This allows them to be a viable option for homes, complexes and businesses. It may even be the ultimate push in selling your home in a saturated market.

“While Eskom is in the throes of uncertainty we continue to establish relationships by designing custom solutions and delivering on or ahead of schedule. In simple terms, we’ve shown we’re here for the long term,” he adds.

Superwatt expanded its operations outside the borders of South Africa, after being awarded the contract by Uramin Namibia (Pty) Ltd - part of the French nuclear giant Areva. This recently completed installation of a synchronised system at Trekkopje Mine’s Desalination plant in Swakopmund will initially be the primary source of electrical power for their new desalination plant about 30km north of Swakopmund. This plant will pump fresh water via 2 pump stations 50km across the desert to their Uranium mining project.

Superwatt has also delivered and installed the final set of generators at Southgold’s Burnstone Mine, which completes a 12MVA synchronised solution. Other recently completed projects include the Cape Town Station upgrade, solutions for BHP BILLITON’s Hillside Plant In Richard's Bay, and Brandywine Valley Investment's Uitkomst Colliery outside Newcastle in Kwazulu Natal.

“More than 3 years after the initial power crisis, the public is facing more questions than answers, the biggest question surrounding the running of a state-owned entity. The false sense of security has largely been as a result of a decreased demand in electricity due to the slowdown in the economy. With the signs of recovery now visible, and 2010 just around the corner, we have seen a significant swing back to generator power. This demand is across the board, from homeowners through to big business and parastatals,” he concludes.

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