Grid link to 2,404-MW Cahora Bassa fails; South Africa sheds load

South African cities, mines, and smelters were hit by power cuts October 26 as generator failures and loss of a grid link from Mozambique meant utility Eskom could not supply nearly a quarter of its normal power requirements.

“The total (lack of supply) is about a quarter of our capacity,” Eskom’s spokesman Tony Stott said. “There is a risk of further cuts over the weekend, but that will be mitigated by reduced demand.”

He said power generators with a capacity of about 4,800 MW were out on scheduled summer maintenance, but the utility lost a further 2,700 MW as some generators malfunctioned. A further 1,500 MW was lost after a supply line from Mozambique’s 2,040-MW Cahora Bassa hydroelectric project failed during heavy rains.

With World Bank support, Mozambique has been working to reinforce and expand its transmission system to enable power exports to South Africa and neighboring countries. (HNN 10/25/07)

Eskom has been criticized for frequent blackouts in recent years for failing to keep up with the demands of South Africa’s booming economy. It supplies about 39,000 MW, 95 percent of which is coal-fired.

Eskom normally asks its biggest users to reduce power demand when faced with a shortage, so as to supply its domestic users. Long car jams formed as traffic lights were disrupted as business and domestic users of electricity in major cities of Africa’s biggest economy went without power.

Diversified miner BHP Billiton said the firm’s two aluminum smelters had been “load-shed”, that is power supply was cut as per agreements with the utility, while Xstrata and Gold Field said they had been asked by Eskom to reduce their power usage by a total of 225 MW.

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