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South Africa’s electricity exports are under the spotlight, as the threat of load shedding hit home this week when power utility Eskom warned that the national grid was under strain.
Last year, Eskom sold more than 13 000 gigawatt hours (GWh) to South Africa’s neighbours, to the value of R4.1-billion, or 6% of all electricity sold, according to its most recent annual report.
David Ross, the Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on energy, said that, although Eskom should not halt exports to South Africa’s neighbours as this was part of “normal trade relationships”, it should put South Africa’s needs first.
Eskom forecast early last year that South Africa would experience a power gap of 9 000GWh, or roughly 1 000 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, during 2012.
“Everything that can be done must be done to prevent South Africa from experiencing load shedding,” Ross said. But Eskom stressed that it also relied heavily on power imported from South Africa’s neighbours, receiving about 1 500MW from Mozambique, according to spokesperson Hilary Joffe.
The annual report showed that the bulk of exported power, 8 523GWh, went to Mozambique through transmission company Motraco, which was created to take power to BHP Billiton’s Mozal aluminium smelter. Eskom and the power utilities of Swaziland and Mozambique jointly own Motraco.
Botswana received 2 377GWh and Namibia 1 559GWh, and our smallest neighbours, Swaziland and Lesotho, received 564GWh and 247GWh respectively. Zambia received 3GWh.
But Eskom imported power from places such as Cahora Bassa in Mozambique, along with small volumes from Lesotho and Zambia. Imports were 10 190GWh during 2010/2011, leaving the county exporting about 3 000GWh more than it takes in.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters would not reveal the cost of the power to our neighbours in her reply to questions from the DA in Parliament. “The prices to these utilities are individually negotiated using standard megaflex tariffs as a basis with an appropriate premium,” she said in her reply. “The end-user customer prices vary from standard tariffs to renegotiated rates.”
The prices could not be revealed as “this was commercially sensitive information for Eskom’s customers”, she said.
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