Oil and Gas News
Gas and power shortages deprive South Africans of winter warmth
May 25, 2006, 15:31 GMT
Johannesburg - South Africans trying to cope with an unusually chilly start to the winter season that has brought snow, hail, sleet and sub-zero overnight temperatures, also had to contend with a shortage of gas, reports said Thursday.
The shortage, affecting among others industrial and commercial enterprises and households, was also exacerbated by an apparent shortage of gas cylinders and the fact that two of the country's refineries were down, according to the Citizen newspaper.
'It is a bit of a problem. We don't have any stock and our stockists don't have either, causing us to lose a lot of business,' a representative from a gas company west of Johannesburg told the Citizen.
South Africa's national electricity grid has been under strain in recent months in the wake of as yet unresolved technical problems at the Koeberg nuclear power plant in Cape Town.
Frequent power failures and ongoing restrictions have become a part of life in the popular tourist city, its environs and areas further afield as repairs to the facility appear to drag on. Koeberg is expected to return to full capacity at the end of July - mid- winter.
Predictions that power failures and controlled blackouts by the electricity utility Eskom would continue in the coming months, brought about a countrywide scramble for mobile generators, gas cylinders and other appliances that operate with alternative fuel.
'An unprecedented demand for gas is being experienced as a result of erratic electricity supply as well as the early and extremely cold winter,' a spokesman for the gas and welding group Afrox told the Johannesburg-based Citizen newspaper.
The government has stressed that South Africa's power problems relate in part to rapid economic growth and the increasing number of people who have become beneficiaries of its post-apartheid bid to provide households with electricity.
The government has however come under fire for what some observers see as poor planning and mismanagement.
Eskom recently began distributing energy saving light bulbs in the Western Cape Province to assist prudent use.
To assist consumers, the utility introduced on Thursday a daily televised colour-coded 'power alert' system to indicate vulnerable areas based on strains on the national electricity grid.
Construction on a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor cluster that Pretoria has promised will alleviate the imbalance between supply and demand, is expected to begin next year and largely completed by 2010.
Millions people in rural and informal settlements in many urban areas around the country of 45 million people with no access to electricity rely on gas, paraffin and coal for heating.
South Africa has plans to fulfil its commitment of providing all its citizens with electricity by 2012.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur